Boy oh boy, isn’t this a sticky situation I find myself in. Frankly, I haven’t a single clue how to fix this or even make it slightly better; kind of renders that whole ‘adrenaline-induced slow-motion’ thing pretty damn useless. The one thing I do recall is a little trick, though. When you see the very first warning sign of everything going to hell in a rush, following these very simple instructions could save your life!
Duck and cover. And that’s what I’ll do. I crouch deep inside my hiding place, hugging my knees and making myself as cosy as I think anyone could get mid-apocalypse. All the blood doesn’t sure doesn’t make it easy, it stains me red, wet and gross all over. Also, it’s blood. The colour, taste, look and feel it make me kind of sick. Despite all that, It at least feels safer,although I’m not sure this actually provides any kind of protection.
I look up: Koakuma is kind of hovering over the opening, frozen, but not looking at me. Thankfully. She doesn’t look as scary from this angle. Actually, I begin to feel sorry for her: what with Parsee’s fist impacting so frightfully solidly onto her face. It drives in, and in, and her nose looks like it’s gone. There’s a meaty sound and a slight, muffled crunching sound that I would rather not dwell on. I should probably look elsewhere now, but it’s somehow hypnotizing. I expected her to shoot, not just punch like a brute.
It’s all not so silent anymore. Meiling and Yamame are yelling something I can’t quite make out, Koakuma moans in pain, and Parsee… Well. She makes to vault right over me in pursuit, but gets stopped by a familiar hand on her collar. She snaps over me in the direction poor devil-girl fell, kind of reminding me of a dog on a short leash. Scary, but only Parsee-scary. “Let go! I’ll snap her neck, I’ll rip ‘er face out!” “We’re leaving.” In a panicky-stern sort of way. Parsee gets unceremoniously pulled out of the way and— oof. the world shakes violently and I add another bruise to my collection before holding tight enough to stabilize. We’re moving. I look up, and sure enough, I see the recognizable golden bands of Yamame’s dress and, er… other recognizable parts. Thank the gods this bucket kept its handle throughout the years: she carries me with one hand, flying almost horizontal so I can’t quite see her face.
It should be safe enough to peek out now, right? Looking backwards I raise my head just enough to see. I catch Meiling standing between us and something colourful and pointy. She’s standing in the way, so I can’t quite—
Oh. She loses a leg. Everything below her right knee disappears in a second, with no sort of blast or light or anything of the sort. It just becomes air and she topples over. I sure hope she isn’t a human, because if she is that’s going to be a pain to heal.
The person-shaped red pointy rainbow starts to rush towards us. That can’t be good.
That’s enough of being a literal burden. I put on my own effort and decouple myself from Yamame, who only gasps for a moment before understanding and letting go. We’re back to danmaku again, as scores of little bullets streak by us. A couple pepper my head and it burns, but it’s not enough to sway my concentration. Without looking back, I toss out some of my own anemic bullets as I fly: this, like flying, wouldn’t cooperate with me at all in the beginning and was only obtained after horrible, strenuous practice. After obtaining a couple of new awful red painful splotches on my dominant arm, I stop doing that too and focus on keeping my head down as much as possible.
Who in old hell designed a hallway this long as a basement? This is awful. I have to keep pace with Parsee and Yamame, both of whom are slightly slower than me. Thankfully, so is pointy-rainbow-person. It’s a painful couple of minutes before we find the stairs. Zoom up and back into tacky red wonderland, then desperately for the exit.
We run, and run and run. By the time the adrenaline runs out, the mansion is a red spot beyond the lake and the sky is turning that shade of blue that lets you know the sun is coming up soon. I think the rainbow-person stopped chasing us around when we left the basement, but the damn fairies got all riled up and started shooting at us too. But I’d rather not think about that anymore. Without caring for who’s around, I flop down on the grass, bucket and all. The dewy grass feels amazing on my cheeks: it’s just about the only comfort I have right now, being bloody, sticky, bleeding, bruised, tired, sweaty and burned.
Actually, no, it’s not the only comfort I have. I’m alive, I’m not shut up anywhere and I have two people who, somehow, might actually like me right nearby. I roll over to look, and they’re in a similar state to me, except with less blood. Yamame lies face up with her eyes closed, just as flushed and fully occupied in breathing as we all are, her chest rising and falling. At some point, she lost her hair-thing (same as I), so her actually surprisingly long hair pools on the grass and sticks to her neck. Being bigger and with nothing to protect her, she fared worse than me when it comes to dodging. I see several crispy holes and burn marks in her dress, as well as the telltale bright red marks on exposed skin. It goes away in a few hours tops, but damn if they don’t hurt.
...Ah, I don’t care anymore. Too tired to care. I half-drag myself, grab her dress with both and bury my face in it. Kind of awkwardly, to the side. It stings my hurt lip something awful and I’m probably dirtying her even further. I don’t care. She— she came after me based on a shoddy picture message I left, she put herself on the line to save my skin for no reason.
My eyes feel hot, but I’m not really crying. Just winding down from a stressful situation, you know how it is. It doesn’t count as crying if it’s out of relief or happiness. I’m not. I don’t have enough energy to even flinch or be surprised when she places a hand on my head and scratches. I nuzzle her more or less unconsciously. Oh Gods, I’ll end up sleeping like this if I’m not careful.
“You two done cuddling?” A familiar low voice threatens to interrupts my happiness. But doesn’t; I’ll only move from here if something threatens to claw my throat out. “I’d say we should get farther from that blasted place before relaxing.” Right. We only reached the opposite the shore of the lake. I don’t suppose either of them feels like discussing what happened just yet, better secure some shelter or rest beforehand. Actually, I’d rather not even think about it for now.
Yamame keeps rubbing my head, and I’m only faintly listening to what she’s saying. I may have a problem. Her clearer voice rings out in between deep breaths, still. “There’s a human village not too far from here, just about half an hour if we fly. I don’t think any of us want to sleep under open air in this state.”
Parsee hmph’s disdainfully. She doesn’t look much worse or much better than Yamame, except for still having her hair tie intact. “Humans? You knock your head back there?”
“The entrance back to the underground is too far away. In the village we can get clothes, somewhere nice to sleep and a warm bath. Youkai are decently integrated over there: if we don’t make any trouble, nobody should trouble us.” She sighs. “And I have money.”
Parsee makes a contemplating noise. “Are you gonna be alright there? Humans break with a touch.”
“I… Ah.” She doesn’t sound so good after that. I see. Sensitive issue. I rub against her again by way of encouragement. “W—well, as long as I don’t touch anybody, it should be fine.”
“If y’say so.”
Silence. I suppose they’re deciding. Damn. I absolutely don’t want to walk any more today, but you have no idea how tempting a warm bath and some nice fluffy covers sound right now. I could change out of this awful sticky dress and everything. Sorry I wasted your present, miss Satori.
[ ] Pass out here. [ ] Human village it is. [ ] Write-in
Clearly actiony scenes are not my forte. Not that I can complain, I set it up myself. And damn, we’re through a thread in a month and a few days? That’s a pretty good pace if I do say so myself. Welcome to thread the fourth.
More flying, then? Ehhh… But it’s so comfortable here, and the sun is just starting to warm me up.
I hear the recognizable sound of Parsee’s sigh. “Fine. But you’re dealing with the humans.”
Yamame ‘hmm’s and immediately starts getting up — which won’t do at all! Come on, I just laid down here. I grab, try to stop her from getting up, and fortunately she does. Just a little longer, please. Five minutes will do, is that too much to ask?
Actually, it might be. I already put both of them at risk by making them come rescue me. And actually did cost miss Meiling her leg and the huge pain that growing a limb back is. And stopped Parsee from doing whatever it is that she wanted to with miss Patchouli. And broke a library door. Maybe it is too much. I’ve been enough of a burden for everyone.
“Th—” No. Not quite that. Is there a word that means conveys both gratitude and regret? “Sorry.”
...Of course, I don’t actually say it, just kind of mouth it against Yamame, still stinging my lip from the friction. I like to think the feeling will go through, somehow.
Alright, It’s just a little while longer. I crawl back into my place: just a half-hour of flying more and I can get a nice warm bath. Yamame leads as we set off to the opposite side of the sunrise, just barely keeping above the hilly terrain. There’s not much conversation: a glance at my travel companions tells me this is probably because they’re just as exhausted as I feel. That’s fine, I get to enjoy the sun at my back for a while and get some space to think.
Which I might not actually want. It’s odd to ponder, but come to think of it, just what exactly happened back there? I recall Patchouli’s words. Every youkai past some kind of threshold of power should have a specific type, apparently. I vaguely knew that, but I’d never stopped to think and apply it to myself: I’m not really strong at all. Even any of the ‘weaker’ ones that look and act more like animals or actual monsters are better off than me.
Even then, what the hell ‘type’ of youkai would I be? Certainly not an oni or a satori. I also don’t feel like any sort of incarnation of those spirits that occasionally waft up from the deeper parts of old hell. ...Damn, my knowledge in my own kind is rather lacking, because I can’t think of much than that. Tengu, no. Absolutely not any kind of divine apparition. Not any sort of tsukumogami, not a tanuki, kitsune, kappa or nekomata. I think those are all the famous ones. I think of a few lesser–known ones, too, but none of them seem to fit me. Shouldn’t I instinctively know what the hell I am? Or at least have some kind of clue? Like if I was instinctively attracted to stay in houses and take care of them, that’d probably make me a zashiki-warashi, but I don’t think I have any of that, either. She also mentioned that it was indeed a seal on my back, but that doesn’t help me as much as it should. After all, I have no idea specifically what a seal is or what it does, other than seal something. Is it sealing something or someone else inside me, somehow? Or suppressing something of mine? I suppose the logical assumption would be that it’s sealing my characteristic powers, whatever those are, which is why I don’t know what the hell I am. But that’s still just an assumption. For all I know, the two things could be completely unrelated. Or — what if any body parts and instincts I had are also sealed? Could I grow some horns and a fondness for alcohol if this thing on my back went away? Yeesh, I don’t want to think abou that. What if I turned out to be something like a Satori?
There’s also the fact that she wanted to keep me there, even by force, but that one I’m completely in the dark about. Why? She said it after ‘examining’ me with a bunch of tests I didn’t quite understand, so I suppose they turned something up, but I can’t think of any reason she’d want to keep me around.
In the end, none of it changes my original objective. I’m finding out what the hell this thing on my back is. I just hope Parsee and Yamame don’t decide to go back to the underground, I’d hate to wander the surface alone. I know the tunnels and crevices of the tunnels well enough to hide and run from anything down there, but not so much up here. It’s nice to have someone to hide behind. Also… Um, it’s nice. You know, having someone. Around.
A–anyway, I haven’t the first clue where to even begin looking for someone who knows magic. I had a sudden strike of luck with Patchouli, but that went nowhere fast. I guess… Parsee was looking for her, so maybe she’s looking for someone with expertise in that area, same as me? That’d be nice.
Yamame’s voice breaks me out of my fruitless wondering. “There it is.”
Oh wow, we are. Looks like we’re going backwards, since the great Youkai Mountain is back to dominating most of the sky before us. Damn, this took a full day or so of walking before. Why did Parsee decide to walk all the way, before? Is this really a ‘village’? It seems much bigger than the Ancient City, and that’s supposed to be a whole city. It’s a splash of dirt and buildings in a Youkai Forest ‘clearing’, in the shadow of the mountain. Do you still call it a clearing if it’s large enough to house an entire town?
And it’s already lively: it’s barely sunrise and the humans are already alight. You hear yells of merchants peddling their stuff, smoke and metal–on–metal noises coming from several houses, kids running around, people setting up stalls in the streets, numerous coaches and some carts with boxes of goods moving out of the village through a road leading away from the village (and a few through the back, though I couldn’t imagine what they’re planning to do up the mountain). It’s easy to tell it’s a growing village: all throughout, wooden frames and half-built structures rise up, being hammered and painted and… well, built. It’s a far cry from the sleepy mornings in the Ancient City where you’d be lucky to find anyone awake at this hour. More of them, too. There must be thousands of humans here.
Most shockingly, there are youkai mixed in like it’s nothing. Just at a glance, I see them here and there: horns, wings, ears and tails walking around the crowd and mingling. I didn’t know this was even possible.
“Come to think of it,” Parsee says as we approach from the air, “the hell are humans doing here? Last I knew, their village was clear on the other side of gensokyo.”
“The village was recently established due to some influence from the mountain shrine. I don’t know much about it.”
She hums thoughtfully, but says no more.
“Oh, and,” I start when Yamame turns back to me. I was sort of gawking at the city. “You should get rid of that dress before we get there.”
Hm? Oh! Yeah. Blood and all that. Probably wouldn’t make a very good impression. Dipping into my bucket, I take it off and, with some maneuvering, wrap myself in that piece of cloth that I got from Yamame’s place. Good thing Patchouli didn’t take it out when I passed out there.
The city isn’t walled, but we touch down near where the entrance might be if it were, to only a few odd looks. I get more of them. And I belatedly realize an unpleasant fact. Like in the Ancient city, lots of the inhabitants here are menfolk. And that’s not good.
I glue myself to Yamame, grabbing on to her skirt and staying as close as possible.
Thankfully, it’s not too long before Yamame guides us to a friendly-looking inn-y place with a restaurant at the bottom floor. After being a little too jolly and getting silenced by a death glare from Parsee, the innkeeper guides us to the room: a homely little place, with one large, immaculately white bed to one side. ...Wait, one bed?
Geez, maybe mention that instead of going on and on about the bath water that automatically warms up, jerk. But then again, maybe he did. I’m not in the best state to concentrate on anything, right now. Still, it’s a bed. A warm, fluffy, comfortable, pure white bed. The kind you sleep on. Suddenly my fatigue feels a lot more noticeable. The temptation to just topple on it and welcome oblivion is great, but… I don’t want to go to sleep before Yamame and Parsee do, and Parsee is saying something or other about going out to buy… stuff. Maybe something else too, I’m not sure. Also, the innkeeper did say we get warm water up here.
[ ] Fluffy bed! [ ] Warm bath! [ ] Wait, what are they talking about…?
I should mention my most major break from canon in this story so far: the size of Gensokyo. I think it says on canon somewhere that you’re supposed to be able to see all of it from the Hakurei Shrine, but I say to hell with that. What’s the point of a low technology setting without the difficulties of distance even showing up ever? That’s no fun at all.
Also, second human village. Just because. I loosely worked out the geography from canon material and drew myself a little map, but not before screwing up the SDM’s canon location at the foot of Youkai Mountain. Everything other than that and from now on should be fine, I think.
We're probably pretty gross after all that mayhem.
I'm down with the idea of a second human village. Lets you do a lot of interesting stuff with the setting.
It's odd that Kisume's type is a mystery, considering how we already know what she is. Makes me suspect that another deviation from canon is coming. If not, the poor girl probably won't like the truth.
Because nothing beats a warm bath when you're tired and worn out (not to mention covered in blood, sweat, and possibly tears).
>>13196 The Hakurei Shrine is supposed to be on a large hill/small mountain, right? Being able to see "all of Gensokyo" from there still means it's pretty large. I mean, it would take quite some time to get from "horizon to horizon", so to speak.
>>13198 Well, being a tsurube-otoshi doesn't exactly say much anyway. They just spend their days falling down on things. That's literally all they do. Well, okay, sometimes they can also drop other things on people or sing taunts that people should walk by under them... So they can fall down on them.
(And they are usually depicted as a disembodied head, which is sometimes the head of an oni or tengu, so who knows, maybe she will actually grow those horns after all...)
Called. I see the old adage about bath choices still rings true
>>13201 Oi. No. ...I thought about it. Damn it, why do you think I only put 1 bed in the room? You'll have enough fanservice, so stop tempting me.
>>13198 >It's odd that Kisume's type is a mystery, considering how we already know what she is. Makes me suspect that another deviation from canon is coming. Yes, that's exactly the case. You can ignore any canon material on Kisume other than her appearance as far as this story goes. I'm not sure I should even be saying this, but it's pretty basic information, and I thought I'd already clarified it at some point.
So white, so comfortable, so, so tempting. But there’s something even more tempting waiting for me just across that door. And anyway, it’s not like I strictly need to sleep or even rest, it just feels great. Plus, if I flopped down onto this pristine bed right now it’d… become no longer pristine, to put it mildly. And that'd be terrible. I skip the bed and go entirely towards the adjoining bathroom. Fancy! Maybe too fancy, I hope I’m not wasting too much of Yamame’s money with this.
It’s not unlike miss Satori’s, also western style. It’s just a tad too spacious. You’ve got the smooth white tiles that feel nice to the touch, the smell of... cleaning things, I suppose; the embroidered towels, a separate shower box, the tub with spigots for warm water. I still can’t believe this exists. An instant hot spring: perfect.
Having a relaxing soak needs more set-up than I’d like, but it’s all worth it. I have to set my stuff aside, start drawing the bath and all that. Shower, too: if I go in in the state I am, I’ll just end up soaking in bloody mud. I take the chance to give my bucket a good once-over, since it’s in an even worse plight than me. Burn marks, soot, dust all over, debris inside. It doesn’t take all that long to get it more or less acceptable..
Stepping (floating) out of the shower, I realize one feature of this room that had escaped my notice before.
A full body mirror. Oh.
…A little look. Just a little look won’t hurt. I get out of my bucket and step down onto the cool tile floor, still keeping it firmly held in a hand. Feels like it’ll run away by itself if I don’t. I pull myself in front of the mirror, half unwillingly. Looking at myself has never been very pleasant, but… I don’t know. Maybe I’ve gotten a little better, and I want to have a look at how that cut looks. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a full body mirror.
My tangled wet hair falls down to just below my shoulders. I need some replacement for my lost hair ties, I look way too boyish like this. My face looks normal. Same face as always, except for the clean cut. Looks kind of nasty looking at it this close, cleanly separated. It’s pink and bringing a fingertip to it, I confirm that it’s still tender. Shouldn’t take too long to heal, however: after a week, it’ll just be a big scratch.
The rest of me… the general impression hasn’t changed, at least. Although…
Wait a minute. Have I gotten a bit fatter?
Hm. I haven’t taken a good look at myself for a while, but I was under the impression I was skinnier than this. Just one or two lines showing around the ribs. I don’t look emaciated or anything. My chest is… No, not much improvement there. Darn. Well, at least I’m not completely flat. But still, this is less bony than I anticipated, and it’s not too bad, considering. Then there’s my only — most, if you’re feeling charitable — feminine feature. Apparently, all the little extra fat I get has ended up going to my thighs and hips, and since my waist is naturally thin, I’ve surprisingly ended up with a pretty ladylike shape. Kind of. Close enough. I run my hands along my sides. Yeah, feels fuller too. That’s weird, I don’t think I’ve been eating that much more than usual, lately. It’s true that I’ve had some actual hearty meals, which I nearly never got before these busy last few days, but it was just that: a few meals. Not that I’m complaining. I look better than I thought I would. Even the number of lingering bruises and cuts has gone down, since I haven’t done much scuffling, crawling or any of those things lately. Shins and knees excepted: constantly riding a wooden bucket around is hell on them, poor things. I do a little spin～♪
Alright, that’s enough. The bathwater is almost spilling over.
A looong sigh escapes me as I sink into the near-scalding water. Very clearly I’ve made the right decision here. It’s cozy enough in here, but I keep one hand off the tub and on my friend sitting beside me. You know, just in case. It warms me, every limb and part of my body to the core. I’d bet heaven is full of hot springs. I haven’t felt quite like this since—
I’d forgotten. Since, um, Koishi. I feel my face burning again as I recall what she did. Why’d I have to go and remember it? I scatter water everywhere shaking it off my head. I’m here to relax, so that’s what I’m doing. I lay back, humming. So good.
“...ne of your blasted business, that’s what.”
“It is if you’re taking her with you.”
I see. I can hear what they’re saying in the room if I pay attention.
“That so? You her mother, then? Family? Know where she came from?”
I shouldn’t be eavesdropping, should I?
“I— You know I don’t and you know it doesn’t matter, it’s dangerous up here no matter where you’re planning go. What are you going to do if the Hakurei finds you?”
“Bite her pretty little throat out, what do you think? Besides, what the hell is she going to do anyway? She’s soft, the worst she’ll do is kick us back to the caves.”
“But nothing. I said I’m not going back.”
That was quieter. I barely heard it.
“Will you be alright?”
Ah. Parsee says something, but they're both too quiet for me to hear now. Wow. I didn’t know they were that close. Something else to think about — later. When I’m not busy enjoying a rare bath.
By the time I come back into the room, Parsee already left to do whatever it is she was going to do in the village. Yamame is there, but I hardly have the composure to spare her much attention, or the fact that I forgot I’d have nothing to wear and am only wrapped in a towel. Again placing my bucket to the side and keeping a hand on it (just in case), I drift off into a very nice day’s sleep.
Nnn… Did I sleep in a cloud last night? Everything is so squishy… Oh, it’s a pillow. Did I have a pillow? Right, right. Hotel thing. I don’t wanna get up yet. There’s someone on the bed with me, looks like. On the other side. And then there’s… someone on the floor, too? Thinner, though. Why? I can’t tell who’s who, they both have their backs turned to me...
I want to sleep again. And something better to squeeze. This pillow’s no good.
Just marathoner this story, and I have to say, the sheer Feels that I'm getting out of it are awesome.
Going by what's been said in story, and how our current goal is to figure out the Seal on Kisume's back? Combined with her dreams, and certain ways she's acted?
I think its safe to say Kisuke is a Magician Youkai, who spent her earliest days playing with some kids, before getting snagged by Youkai hunters, dragged back to someplace, had the Seal branded into her to make her powerless, and drain all her magic for someone else's use.
Patchouli likely figured this out, and honestly wanted to keep us to remove the Seal, likely out of a vague sense of kinship for a fellow Magician. Unfortunately, due to Horrific PTSD on Kisume's part, combined with Patchy not being at All good with people or explaining herself, led to us running away from the girl who likely wanted to fix our problem, if only to ensure it never happened to Her.
Now, we're in the new human village, Parsee's never going back underground, and we still don't have any IC idea about our Seal. Aside from it being responsible for shutting us off from our magic when it was applied.
And Kisume is utterly terrified of men, alongside her horrific PTSD, which honestly leads me to believe that, as damaged as she is now, she would have becoming something truly amazing if she'd been given a chance to grow unhindered by what was done to her.
I really hope the humans who did what they did to Kisume are dead. It seems likely, if she's been underground for several decades/centuries and thanks to memory problems just doesn't remember being so.
I can't wait to see where this story goes, Isolex! Kudos to you, good author!
>>13236 Eh. I don't think its entirely reasonable to assume she's a magician, or that Patches wanted to help her out of feelings of kinship. Could just be that the seal is going to gradually do something worse. But in abscence of enough evidence, I don't want to contribute more unfounded speculation, not when we have such a generally steady update rate around here.
Mmm… this bed is so good. I don’t wanna leave it. I toss the not-soft-enough pillow out of sight and roll towards the soft-enough one. One–two—–– oof Straight into her back. A little harder than I intended, there. Still, objective completed. I let out a big yawn and awkwardly wrap one arm around… Yamame? Yeah, this should be Yamame. This ought to be better. Nn… ‘Night.
I frown through mostly closed eyes. No, this isn’t quite right yet. She’s soft and all, but there’s something off. What am I doing wrong? Hmm. Something smells fruity and sweet further up. I crawl, crawl, and find the source. A faceful of loose blonde hair. I nuzzle for a second, and while it’s warm and good, this still isn’t the optimal squeezing position. Geez, the middle of the night (day?) isn’t the right time for puzzles like this.
Perhaps the other side might work better. After trying twice and managing only to fall back on the bed, I manage to clamber up and straddle her midsection. She’s lying quiet and still: she has her eyes closed, looking for all the world like she’s still peacefully asleep and not as if an annoying little shrimp was climbing over and bugging and waking her up from a deserved rest.
I get a whim. A silly, childish whim nobody would pay attention to. Except for a half-asleep me. I lean over her shoulder and slowly, slowly bring a hand to her cheek, stopping every step of the way, each time she breathes.
poke It’s… soft, warm, like a person. Which makes sense, thinking about it. But she doesn’t react, and that’s not interesting. A little more, then? I poke, and poke again, and pull, and palm at her face while she continues to pretend to be asleep. I assume so, anyhow. Hehe, this is kind of fun. Kind of like one of those… whatsitsname, those children’s toys you can shape into anything. Feels good to the touch too. Hmm, since I’m already at it, why don’t I try something else? I breathe deep. It’s easy not to think of much when you’re tired.
“...Ya.” And out, barely above a whisper. There’s something like a tug in my heart, but I ignore it. I did it! Sort of! I laugh to myself, as quietly as I can. I think I can do more at this pace.
“Ya. Ma. Me. Ya–ma–me.”
I’m scared for just a moment — that slimy cold feeling at the pit of your stomach. But it’s wholly replaced by a rush, bottom up, in just a few moments. I heard my own voice! It’s nothing to be amazed at — matches my appearance, but I did it! I giggle. Actually giggle. It topples me over to the front of her with a bit of a crash, falling into a bit of a tangle of limbs. It’s a lot harder to rein in the laughter than to disentangle myself. Ta-da! Here we are, this side has a lot more cushioning. That was plenty for me, now all I have to do is—
Ah. Somehow, a pair of arms ends up firmly around me. Um.
I’m trapped. I’m just about to attempt to extract myself, when all of a sudden, the arms squeeze. I yelp — it’s more like it’s forced out of me — out of surprise, and I’m now more than trapped. I’m thoroughly pinned. I also realize, way, way too belatedly, that at some point I shed the single towel I wore to bed, and that apparently Yamame didn’t want to wear that dreadful heavy dress to bed either, because she’s in a less than dressed state as well. More decent than me, though.
Aw. I didn’t plan on this. But… it isn’t so bad, actually. Warmer than I’d like, but otherwise just right.
Mm… my eyelids slip down a bit. Being this close, an ear to her chest, moving up, down, up, down along with the rhythm of her breathing. This might just be spot I was looking for. Something feels off, but I’m not in any state of mind to think about it.
Maybe being the pillow was always the better option?
There’s an acid burning in my throat. The first thing I hear is my own desperate coughing. I don’t feel good. My mouth feels cut up inside, I feel cold and tired and my skin has a thousand bugs crawling through it. I fall, coughing all the way down to the floor, and instinctively roll under the bed. A shiver tears through me, strong enough that my teeth audibly chatter. Oh gods, what’s going on? And the taste — oh no, this taste. This metallic, salty taste. I bring a hand to my mouth, and it only confirms what I fear. And worse, a web of crimson lines spreading through my body, an angry red rash following it along and dying me a color that can’t be healthy.
Web…? Oh. Oh dear. I–I have to get back to my place. I spot my bucket over on the other side of the bed, and Parsee, apparently still sleeping beyond.
I hear rustling above me. No, no. I can’t let her — either of them see me like this. Just being reminded of things like this made Yamame feel down, if she learned that I ended up like this, I don’t even know what she’d do, and I don’t want to find out.
Fighting off another shiver, I crawl over and into my bucket as quickly as possible, still feeling sluggish. Probably running a high fever as well, from the way I feel. Yamame is already rising: I dart inside the bathroom, or at least do the closest thing to darting I can right now.
Lock the door and straight to the mirror. The veiny-looking lines go up to my neck, circling around it like they’re trying to grasp my head, but at least none of it is on my face. This much I can hide. But why the hell does my mouth feel like it’s burning…?
Oh. So that’s where the blood is coming from. Okay, okay, let’s not look at that again. It’s just a little pain, it’ll be fine.
I feel something soft at my knees. Finally a lucky break: something to wear. A simple white robe, not unlike the ones I wore underground: this must be what Parsee went shopping for yesterday. Oh, and new hair ties. I slip them on and check the mirror. Good, no red patches visible.
Okay. I’m okay. It’s just a fever and some pain and itching, nothing debilitating. It looks scary, but this much I can roll with. It’ll probably recede on its own: I’m no flimsy human. Yeah. I splash some water on my face and I’m ready.
I open the door to find these two have already started something again.
“You’re what?” Parsee is being herself. Staring fiercely in a standoff kind of stance, even as Yamame unconcernedly dresses herself while she speaks.“I said I’m coming along with you.”
“The hell you are. Why do—”
“Oh, please,” she sighs, but it’s not a wholly unhappy sigh. “You’ve been shut off in the underground for ages. Do you even have any idea where to look for whatever it is you want up here?”
She elects to fume silently instead of answering.
“Let me guess.” Yamame smiles. “You have no plan after you get out of here.”
She averts her eyes momentarily. Bullseye, I’d bet
“See? You’d just end up wandering Gensokyo, hoping for someone to help you by force. Don’t worry, that’s my job. I’ve been up here more than you, you know?”
Where a more sensible person might have hmphed, Parsee makes a strange sort of growling noise before storming outside.
Well, good. At least that diverted attention from me. Yamame turns and motions for us to go — I’m far enough and hidden enough that she doesn’t notice anything, thankfully.
Dues are paid and we move out of the city without further incident. I keep myself a few paces behind my travel companions so they don’t notice how unsteadily I’m moving or how much I’m sweating, and it seems to work. Thankfully it seems to be receding rapidly: maybe it really was a short-term thing. Good, I can only take this fever for so long. I do make a note to try not to fall asleep on Yamame in the future.
We branch off the main road leading east — to the other, bigger human village. After scarcely a few minutes, I realize none of us know where we’re going. And so does Yamame, it seems. “So, are you telling me where we’re going?”
“...Shut up,” she barks. The command lacks the usual edge.
And so she does. I’d forgotten, but it’s become clearer than ever now: these two have probably known each other for far longer than I’ve known either of them. It’s no wonder they have some familiarity.
Then, she speaks quietly, quieter than I’ve heard her speak until now. “I’m…” Pause. “I need a…” Another. Come on, surely, it can’t be something that grave. “I’m looking for a… transmuter, of sorts. Or an enchanter, or something along those lines.” What, that’s it? Does that really warrant so much hesitation?”
Yamame makes no such observation, though. I can understand: it’d probably put the poor girl in an even fouler mood. If she doesn’t want to talk about it yet, I don’t think it’d be easy or a good idea to force it out of her. “So that’s why you went to the mansion?”
Parsee exhales sharply, which I suppose is some kind of a response between these two.
“If this is what telling you about the above world ends up in, I’m not going to do any more of it.” She crosses her arms. “If you need something in the future, you come to me, alright?”
There’s no response from the green eyed blonde, but Yamame looks pleased enough.
“Fine. I’ll tell you about all the magicians I know from hearsay, and you pick where we can go. Obviously, the nearer to the village, the more danger we’re in, but the land stretches far and there’s a large number of youkai underground. It’d take a bad stroke of luck for us to run into anyone that recognizes us or the Hakurei herself.”
[ ] “I hear there are two witches living all the way in the Forest of Magic, far northeast from here. One of them is allegedly powerful enough to compete with the Hakurei in incident resolution.” [ ] “Near the greater human village, there’s a boat turned buddhist temple where the high priest is supposed to be an accomplished sorcerer.” [ ] “While not quite magicians, near the village there’s also lunarian medical facility with extremely sophisticated methods. They ought to have something like transmutation, or alchemy.”
>>13236 Thank you for reading and your patronage, I hope you’ll stay with us to the ending. I’d love to discuss your speculation, but I can’t for obvious reasons.
Hot damn, everyone forgot about Yamame’s deal. Just as planned.
>>13256 Eh, right story, but my keyboard didn't agree with me trying to copy the vote in this story. Was supposed to be: [X] “While not quite magicians, near the village there’s also lunarian medical facility with extremely sophisticated methods. They ought to have something like transmutation, or alchemy.” (Hence, "shady drugs".)
Don't know how I missed the fact that I pasted the completely wrong vote, though. I just derped I guess.
A slight sickness is good, no sickness leads to a weak immune system, we don't want Kisume to be Bubbleboy afterall. Regardless, it won't likely be a problem after the seal is removed and the waff was worth the rash and sore throat.
[X] “While not quite magicians, near the village there’s also lunarian medical facility with extremely sophisticated methods. They ought to have something like transmutation, or alchemy.”
Parsee decides on the temple, with mumble and a surly look, still not fully satisfied with the situation. That’s just fine: it really is the best look for her. I don’t know the first thing about Buddhism, or any religion for that matter. I think they’re supposed to be generally benign, but won’t they try to convert us when we get there? I’m not sure about this.
Nevertheless, there’s still a journey before we get there, and not a short one at that. We could go back to the village and get a coach to take us there, and that’d apparently only take us a few days, but Parsee is fiercely against the idea. Something about money, having to deal with more humans and to sleep at roadside inns — people living along the road in the middle of nowhere like this are probably a lot warier of youkai than city folk. Thinking of the sort of youkai that tended to avoid civilization down in the underground — us included — I can’t say I don’t understand the sentiment. We settle on going the traditional way. Walking the land together and sleeping under the sky. Romantic, isn’t it? Although the walking part is really getting to bother me. Again, they both just walk normally, without exchanging a single word about it, like they both wordlessly agreed to it beforehand. I don’t understand: it feels better and is faster to fly. I really ought to ask about that sometime… somehow.
We travel parallel to the human road, far enough away that the occasional merchant cart or coach walking through it seems to us like a single dot in the distance, quickly becoming dimmer with the falling sun. A few humans dare to make their homes around here: farm houses and inns along and near Gensokyo’s main human road, their windows slowly lighting up with warm orange light here and there, mirroring the sunset. ...Gensokyo at dusk is worth seeing.
Once the sun fully falls under the horizon, I shift my attention to Parsee and Yamame. It’s a young moon now, so I can at least see them clearly enough. They walk close to one another, but conversation is lacking. It’s not a bad atmosphere, though; if anything, I’m the outsider here. I note that both of them still have their clothes riddled with little burnt holes and marks. I guess I was the only one getting new stuff. Even the cute hair ties, which were not necessary at all. Really ought to thank them sometime.
We walk through orchards, groves, fields, past grazing livestock and have to go over a few fences, but it’s otherwise peaceful travel. There’s not much to do, so I’m content in relaxing, watching the scenery and stealing whatever looks edible. Mostly fruit (sorry, farmers!). I have to keep up my weight now, you know! Nobody disturbs us, thankfully, although I can sometimes see the telltale lights of fairies playing, far away.
In this manner we go through the night — and the day, since we decide to keep going after morning. I suppose it isn’t as dangerous in the day as we thought: it’s far more open here than in the tunnels, the chances of just coming across a shrine maiden aren’t high. I’m a tad tired, but that’s only because I’ve been sleeping too often lately, getting used to a human-like cycle.
Anyhow, we end up only stopping the following sundown. Moving around for a near full 24 hours with few breaks can really take it out of you, however much satisfying it is. And that it is: this is half the reason I came up here for, after all. The path we walked wasn’t terribly full of features: about all we got was some kind of mountain far to the south. Still, I enjoyed it — am enjoying it. So much fresher than stuffy tunnels. Good place to stop, too. “The perfect rest after a hard day,” that kind of feeling. Should be close now. We settle into a small natural copse: a gathering of trees, probably just two or three houses laid end-to-end across. Just thick enough to not be visible from the outside or above. I plop down heavily with a contented sigh and watch Yamame set up a tent with trees, a rope, pegs and stuff. I don’t really get it, but it’s good I brought her equipment along. Parsee quips that we can just sleep as is like we did before, but once Yamame gets a campfire going, she changes her tune quick. I kind of regret not doing this with Parsee now.
All 3 of us more or less collapse around the comfortable fire and eat what little we brought from the village — and drink. I don’t know exactly what it is, except fruity and mild and tastes excellent warmed up. I thought it was just the oni, but does the whole of Gensokyo need an intervention? I have to admit it feels pretty good after a long day, but still... I don't know about the wisdom of getting intoxicated in unknown territory. Ah well.
The remarkable part of the day comes only after lights out.
No, not in that way. Pervert.
I wake up with — not a strange noise. It’s a feeling, more like. Like something’s going on. Do you call this instinct? Hasn’t served me too well so far, but better late than never. It’s only me and a probably sleeping Parsee in the tent — far away from each other, though. It’s a pretty wide tent. Yamame opted to sleep outside, and neither of us protested, although I still don’t feel too good about it.
I strain my ears, but there’s nothing. Just the continuous high pitched whine of… some kind of a bug, I think I heard about that. Different to the dead silence I’m used to, but surprisingly easy to get used to. Still, this something. It’s not a sound, I don’t smell or see anything. But it's there. I'm sure.
It’s not very bright in here: even at close range, I can barely see the peacefully sleeping Parsee, and even less outside. I think that’s Yamame sleeping right beside the tent, but beyond her, it’s just all tree-shaped darkness. Bit eerie, actually. It’s a shame that I had to sleep in this hard wooden thing again after a great night in a fluffy bed. The bad parts of the experience aside, I could really get used to that. I crawl back in to fully wake myself up — time for a little excursion. Be right back!
Good thing flying makes no noise, I don’t have to be so careful. Although, it might not have mattered even if it did: the night sounds are somehow absurdly loud if you pay attention to them for a bit. Mostly that weird shrill tone and the shaking of leaves, but not rarely, something else that I can’t quite identify sneaks its way in there. A hoarse bark from something that’s probably not a dog, unfamiliar birdsong, (do many birds come out at night?) and so on. Makes for nice atmosphere, really. Whew, it’s chilly out here: we’re protected from most of the wind by the grove around us, but it’s not perfect. I curl myself up for warmth while I wander a few paces away from the dead campfire and the sleeping Yamame. Doesn’t seem to be anything out here as far as I can tell, but it was a good idea to get some fresh air out here, anyway. Freshen up and all that, take in the greenish smell of wilderness. As long as I have some kind of cover, this is far more comforting than living in a literal hole.
I quiver in place when a particularly cold breeze whips by. There was that too… I better get back inside soon before I freeze to death. I’ll take a breather here for just a few more minutes here, before that.
Of course, the Fates wouldn’t let a thought like that go unpunished, would they? Of course not.
It comes with the wind. Barely audible, at first.
“As I walked by myself, And talked to myself, Myself said unto me!”
Whispering in the wind? Really? I mean, come on. —To tell the truth, it’s still kind of creepy, but I have a good idea of who this is. I should be fine, probably.
“Look to thyself, Take care of thyself, For nobody cares for thee.”
I search around, but I realize it’s futile before I’m even done turning my head, considering the circumstances. I can’t spot anyone in this pitch black forest any better than I could spot a star in the mid-day sky.
“I answer'd myself, And said to myself, In the self-same reparteee～”
The words are voiceless and don’t seem to come from any particular point — and in second thought, this doesn’t actually sound anything like her, really. It’s too solemn, too reserved, perfect diction. Also, not the kind of thing she’d do.
And...Is it getting louder?
Okay, I think it’s time to get moving from here regardless. High time.
“Look to thyself.”
Time to go back to my cozy, warm, well-defended…
Tent? ...Where is it? Come on, I can’t have gotten lost in this tiny piece of land.I didn’t go far at all, did I? It was within sight, I’m fairly certain, but all I see now is a sea of dark.
“Or look not to thyself.”
This isn’t good. Okay, new plan. I pick a random direction instead and just dash, branches whistling by and leaves not so much whistling but buffeting me full force. I should be out of this mess of trees in no time: an open field will be more advantageous.
Trees, trees, annoying to dodge trees. Even more so when you’ve got a creepy, possibly hostile thing after you. At least, I think it’s after me: the voice still seems to be coming from the inside of my head.
Damn it, it was only a small stretch of forest. Surely I can’t be so far from an edge. Any time now, freedom.
Or maybe not. ...Nothing. I must've traversed three times the original length of the damn place, but there are only more trees, like I was teleported somewhere else entirely without my knowledge.
It screams noiselessly into my head. I get the urge to cover my ears, but I get the feeling it wouldn’t do too much.
A person-shaped something smashes into me head-on. I spill out of the bucket. There’s a muffled whomp and an equally muffled pain in the back of my head as it slams into the ground. Thankfully it’s only grass, but still. Ow.
Wait, this isn’t the time for that, is it?
A cold chill runs through me when I realize I’m incapable of scrambling back into my bucket — there’s a heavy, cold thing on top of me. Holding my arms to the sides. Oh gods. O–okay, eyes closed — I’m still thinking clearly and not freaking out somehow. Please, I’m all bony and pale and unhealthy, please, you wouldn’t want to—
Before I have time to process anything, there’s a wet, chilly sensation on my cheek — a smack. I’m too stunned to even shake it off. Then again, on the other side. ...I’ve been duped, haven’t I?
I open my eyes a sliver to a mess of sweet-smelling silvery hair shoved into my face. Familiar, smooth. Yep, as I thought. The younger Komeiji starts annoyingly, girlishly giggling, still straddling me. Same blueish orb and cords, same oddly clean and expensive-looking dress, same stylish hat, same innocence-free innocent grin, same slightly overt predilection for skinship. Same Koishi.
Aw, geez. I take a deep breath, and it’s like all the tension in my body leaves at once with it. For a second there, I really thought I was done for. At first, it felt like her, but I didn’t think this kind of thing was her style — seemed just a tad more elaborate than what she’d do. But I guess not. I feel the pressure on my wrists give, Koishi still laughing on top of me.
“That went perfect,” she barely manages through laughs, bouncing a little, which isn’t good on me. “You’re so cuuuute when you’re scared, I just had to see it again. Besides, isn’t it the perfect camping story? I even wish it's been me instead!”
… That’s not cool. Not cool at all. I knit my brows at her. I nearly had a heart attack, you know? Really. That could have ended badly for me.
“What? Don’t give me that look,” she says, the smile not leaving her. “I did as sister said this time, nothing people don’t want. Just a little kiss on the cheek, no problem! I’m learning, see?”
My frown deepens. Not that, stupid. There’s no way she doesn’t know what she did.
“Aww,” she mocks a hurt tone. “I came all the way to visit you over here, won’t you at least gimme a nice hug? Here, come to ‘sis.” She spreads her arms.
[ ] ...Stupid Koishi. Stupid warm Koishi. [ ] Fine. I–it’s not like I’m doing it for her or anything! It’s just the fastest way to get rid of her. [ ] No. If she’s here to say something, she can do it without gluing herself to me. [ ] Sorry, I have people to get back to this time. Right now.
Were you expecting a scary youkai? Too bad! It was just me, Koishi-chan! Anyhow, I just did this bit for fun. I wonder if I managed to trick anyone.
Not that I could just walk away even if I wanted to, since she’s sitting right on top of me. Heavens, just what do I do with this girl? She looks down on me with hopeful eyes. Those eyes. They haven’t gotten any less unsettling, but I’ve gotten used to them, and her: even with all her oddities, she’s not all that different from me, or us for that matter. Just… a girl. Now that I think about it, I could say that it’s because of her that this whole thing started, isn’t it? If it wasn’t for her dragging me out of my den — almost literally — I’d still be stuck underground and still mostly alone. It’s not like it’d be the first time, so there’s no problem, right? Like when I first met her, and… You know. She, um, h–held me… a–and it’s not like it felt horrible or anything. She was warm enough, besides… It was the first time, um…
~~~~~What is this girl making me think? I turn my eyes away from her, feeling an uncomfortable recognizable warmth rising to my face.
Koishi readily takes the gesture as an authorization. I can tell because she wastes absolutely no time in making some kind of throaty peep, grabbing me and squeezing like she’s trying to push my soul clean out of my body. Ack, doesn’t lack in strength, does she? I’m unceremoniously press into her chest as she tries her best to crush me. At least I can breathe. Barely.
But… it’s not so bad, being hugged like this, surrounded by warmth on all sides. She smells like oranges, for some reason. Even if it's not the gentlest of hugs, it’s not that hard to relax in her arms.
“She blushed at me, she did!” she says, still halfway chuckling. ...Damn, I thought it was dark enough out here. “There’s no way you’re that cute on accident,” she talks into my hair, and it comes somewhat muffled. “It’s on purpose, right? You can tell me.”
I don’t know if I could have told her even if I wanted to, because as soon as she finishes her sentence she rolls. And me along with her.
Koishi is nothing if not a merry person. I can’t do much except weather it as she first rolls me around, covering us both with dead leaves and dirt. Koishi seems very glad to fuss over me: it’s an odd experience. My cheeks are pinched, my hair is messed with, I’m excitedly called all kinds of flattering adjectives that aren’t so fitting if you ask me, and she finds something very funny about pecking at my cheeks. And again, and again, and again, then ceases aiming altogether. The barrage of cool lips reaches just about everywhere: on my nose, eyelids, forehead, ears(!), and—
Ah. My first… Let’s… let’s just say that doesn’t count.
Koishi sure is lively. I’m not sure what she’s here for, but I’ll just have to wait until she’s tired herself out.
“Look at you, acting all composed. You don’t fool aunt Koishi, you don’t.” Aunt? Wasn’t she a ‘sis’ just a while ago? “Did you get some weight on you lately? Right around… here!”
! I jolt. You’re not supposed to pinch a girls ‘meats’!
“Aww. I thought you might squeal from that.” Koishi is a little close. She looks down on me, although I can’t see her expression too well, other than the eyes: it’s too dark here. Still kind of creepy. The winding silvery locks brush my cheeks. “How about…” I don’t like that tone of hers too much. Her eyes dart left and right, scanning me. “Here?”
Ah!—— “There! You went ‘kyaa’! I heard it!” I… O-of course I did, who wouldn’t if you pinched their backside?
The thought doesn’t get through to her, obviously, and she seems to think that me yelping is the funniest thing in the planet. She laughs and laughs and mimics me for another good while. I don’t see what’s so fun about mocking me. “Don’t look at me like that, it’s just a bit of fun, that’s all. Although…” Oh.
I think I know that look, and it’s not one I’m too glad to see.
Her tongue snakes out of her mouth for a split second. “I wonder what other noises I could get you to make.”
There it is. She levels a stare at me, and I can’t do much but return it, stuck as I am below her. It stretches for two, three, many long seconds. There's the loud noises of the night, and her breathing, and my breathing.
It's not a comfortable time.
Thankfully, that’s all that happens. “But,” she says, launching herself up and onto her feet in a flash. “I’m being a good girl today. Sister told me to, and I haven’t forgotten just yet!”
Whew. I reflexively crawl into my bucket (that fortunately ended up right beside me) before I allow myself a sigh of relief.
“I’m bad of memory, though, so don’t count on it for next time. Anyhow, to the point!” She curtsies. I think we’re way past the point of curtsies, but okay. “I say point, but I really just came to get my fill of you.” Is… is that so?
“And I may or may not have been following you all the way here. But that’s not important, is it?~” She spins on the spot. I’m pretty sure she’s just doing whatever comes to mind now. “Since I’m here, I might as well be helpful.” Helpful? I don’t know. “Come on, I can too be of use.” She mimics what I think is supposed to be a... an accent? A royal kind of tone? She’s not too good at it, so I can’t be sure. “This wise ex-satori will grace you with valuable advice. See, watching for a while, it’s fascinating what goes on in your heads.”
In our heads? I thought she had her third eye closed.
She shrugs off my look. “And so, I can bestow upon you one piece of information, about either one of your friends, or you yourself! I assure you it’s interesting, because otherwise I wouldn’t be around. Even plague-girl has something big she wants to do up here, did you know? She hasn’t just been strolling up and under the shrine maiden's nose just for the sake of it.” Oh? It’s not just Parsee? “But I’ll only talk about one of them, since it wouldn’t be as mysteeerious otherwise, would it?” I’m not sure what to make of that logic, but Koishi tips her hat, pleased. “Aren’t I cool? Just like in the books. Oh, and you can ask about other stuff too, but that’ll probably be boring.”
Ooh, a secret fourth option, how exciting! It could be that the option is to not choose someone, or it could be to choose someone unexpected, like good ol' Bucket. Perhaps it's Patchouli, since Koishi did say she was following us the whole way. Can she even be counted as one of Kisume's friends?
[x] Patchouli If it turns out she is not the secret fourth option: [x] Yamame It's been bugging me for a while about what Yamame has been up to.
>>13307 I don't know why, but the idea of the Bucket's secrets had my giggling like a idiot.
>>13310 We've somehow obtained some sort of proto-harem just by being a moe-blob, it was bound to happen soon. While Koishi being the first isn't surprising, my bet on the first serious one is when we Moe-Blob so hard that Yamame or Parsee snaps and comes out with it.
I am tempted by the possibility of discovering more about Kisume's mysterious past though. More than I am by snooping on Yamame or Parsee, at least. I figure they'll tell us what they're up to if they want us to know, and we shouldn't pry if they don't.
“Aww, you don’t want to know more about little old me?” I put my hastily-drawn spider back down, frowning. You weren’t in the options, were you?
Thankfully, she’s as quick to cheer up as she is to put down. “Oh well. I’ll just have to charm you another day. Look forward to it, okay?”
Yeesh. It’s not like I hate her, but I hope Koishi doesn’t take too long to get bored of me.
“Fine, fine. About Missy Kurodani, then. Walk with me for a second, here.” Walk? Walk wh— oh, of course. The camp is right there, a few paces away, like we never left. This thing Koishi does has got to be cheating. What can you even do against a power like that? Damn it. I was probably just floating in place when I thought I was running away, too, while she watched and probably laughed at me.
She steps over Yamame’s sleeping form, bundled up in only a blanket-thing. Ugh, now I feel bad about sleeping in a cozy tent (that SHE set up by herself, no less) while she was out here with nothing but trees for cover. I should’ve switched places with her. I might be a little more used to this kind of situation.
Koishi claps, startling me. “Oh, but I suppose I should explain first,” she says, making absolutely no effort to lower her voice. Sounds like the opposite of that, actually. More mind trickery? With a snap like she’s grabbing prey, she grabs the always present floating blue orb with both hands and holds it up to her face. “So, I can’t quite see what people are thinking like sister, it’s true, but,” she says, widening her grin. “I can see into their heads all the same. But different. Get it?”
… I slowly shake my head.
She’s not surprised or discourage in the least. “Okay, it’s a little like explaining colour to a blind man, but think of it like this: sister sees the front, right?” She seems awfully enthused about this. “Before, like her, I saw current thoughts, and digging deeper I could find old memories, standing opinions and things like that. But right now, I see the back, do you understand?”
Nnno, not really.
She ignores my stare and goes on, squeezing her third eye a bit (doesn’t that hurt?). “How do I explain it? I see... but I don’t ‘see’, really. You know what I mean. What’s in the confines of the mind. Fears, long-established neglect, anger, a deep resentment preventing someone from doing something, addiction and its mechanisms. I see the parts that move when people change.” Koishi crouches next to Yamame, holding out a hand over her head.
“The more ‘off’ a person is, the more of a beacon they are for me, which is why I found you in the first place, dear. Now, nearly everyone in the underground is a little bonkers, but this one…” She taps Yamame in the head and I tense in reflex, but she shows no sign of waking.. “Miss Yamame here and your other friend are special cases.”
Special cases? I tilt my head at her, but she’s focusing solely on Yamame now. Eerily so. I see the blue orb pulse and fidget slightly in her hand. I see, maybe for the first time, the elusive end of one of those odd blue cables. A flat-ish heart heart shape, bobbing organically in the air like a charmed snake. Then another, then another, until there are half a dozen of them hovering above the sleeping Yamame. I still can’t quite see where they connect to Koishi, but there they are.
Um, she’s not going to do anything bad, is she?
One of the tentacle–things slips the covers off while a second wraps rests its flat portion on her temple. The rest seem to go where they like, circling her arms, neck, hiking her skirt up…? Is this really necessary? One of them tightens around one of her thighs, leaving just a bit of flesh bulging out in both sides of it, but still Yamame shows no sign of discomfort.
“Plague-girl here and your other blonde aren’t all that different, in the end.” She doesn’t look at me as she speaks. “In fact, they’re both up here for almost the same reason. Although Yamame — wasn’t it? She has it harder. She just needed a little push to actually go for it, and I think you can provide it, if you like.”
Push? Like with Parsee?
“But I wonder if you’d actually want to do that. It could have some dire consequences, you know. You don’t want to hurt your friend, do you?” She traces one of her own cables (veins?) with a finger while they all retract, fast enough that it’s a wonder they don’t leave friction burns. “I’m sure you’ll know when the time comes. Oh, and I also wouldn’t recommend leaving either of these two alone. They’re needier than you realize.”
When I realize it, all Koishi’s cords are back to their original state: just an odd floating mass of them around her, with no ends or connections visible anywhere. How does it work? She makes a small nod and traces the rim of her hat, smiling. “That’ll be that, then. Was it suitably mysteeerious?” I...suppose. She grins. “Good! This’ll be it for me, then. I’ll come by again when I get hungry. And if you ever get in trouble, scream for me and I might come and help.” Something tells me I shouldn’t put too much faith in this girl, but sure. Trying won’t hurt, in any case.
Saying what she wanted to say, she’s gone before I even see her moving, but I’m done being surprised by— “And your goodnight kiss!” I’m frozen in place as my sight is filled with Koishi. A neck, smooth collarbone, frilly collar, to be exact. Something wet and cold smacks loudly on my forehead.
And then she’s gone. I exhale heavily. Maybe trying to predict her is not for me.
Mm. Maybe I should have stayed inside, this has all been rather tiring. But then, I wouldn’t have met Koishi again… Ah, it’s no use thinking about what’s already happened. I better go back to sleep, rest what I still can for tonight. I’ll just… cover Yamame up beforehand. She’ll be cold.
The sight of pure morning sunlight beaming through trees is quite beautiful. I recommend it. For just that moment, everything is bathed in a golden light, and it’s like we’re transported in time to autumn — how I imagine autumn is like, anyhow. The fresh smell of wilderness helps as well: it reminds me of books. My books. In fact, the whole scene reminds me of a library. I’m not sure why it comes to mind, but this golden sunlight seems to me like it’d be the perfect complement to a dusty, silent temple of knowledge. The birdsong completes the picture: It’s enough to make me forget how bloodthirsty Gensokyo is for, even if it’s just for a little while.
It’s a rather serene awakening. Nobody seems to be in any sort of rush. I wake up and crawl (float) out of the empty tent to a perfectly idyllic scene of a campfire roast. It’s just a few skinny fish and some… vegetables I don’t quite recognize on a skewer, but it’s quite homely-looking all the same. Yamame and Parsee sit side by side, backs to me, sharing a bottle of the rest of our wine and talking in whispers — more out of the respect for the environment than to keep something secret, I feel. Even Parsee, eyes half-closed, seems sedate in this atmosphere, although I’d wager that’s more due to her having just woken up than anything else.
It’s so nice, this scenario. Having people waiting for you when you wake up with food and a smile ready. It’s kind of like… … No. It’s only temporary. I can’t think like this.
I set myself down beside Parsee, who raises her eyes to me and mumbles something that was supposed to be a greeting. Yamame too smiles warmly at me, before cocking her eyebrows. Her voice is low and worried. “Are you alright? Did something happen?”
Huh? Is there something wrong with me? I look down at myself — ah, I see. I’m still very unkempt from rolling around on the ground with Koishi. Still leaves sticking to me and everything.
Yamame makes to crawl over to me, but Parsee puts a hand to her shoulder, stopping her midway. “Oh, relax. Does she look hurt to you?”
Her eyes flit between me and Parsee. “I suppose not, but…”
“Then just pass her the food, will ya? Probably starving.”
Yamame frowns but relents, handing me a skewer. It’s not much, but it’s plenty for me.
Back to hiking. Apparently we crossed a lot more land than expected yesterday: the sun is high in the sky when the concentration of buildings and farms grows heavy enough to make a difference in the scenery. Small squares of crops become the norm rather than untamed wild, fences stretching between fields, herds of farm animals. Even seeing the occasional human away from the main road isn’t so hard, although they mostly run off as soon as they spot us. Can’t blame them.
We must be close now. Is that it in the distance…?
I’m waaay too fucking tired to come up with halfway clever options to represent touhous. Just pick your favourite non-Byakuren Myouren temple touhou and she’ll be greeting you, Kyouko and Mamizou included. I’m gonna have to do a small amount of research before next update, so forgive me if it comes later than usual.
It’s more like a complex of buildings or a villa than I expected a temple would look like. Not that I knew what to expect at all, I don’t recall seeing anything of the sort back at the Ancient City. It lays up closer to the road, square in a valley between two gentle hills
But I don’t get the chance to take a closer look at it just yet. We approach from the back of it, and before we reach the temple proper, we come across an extremely strange… structure? I think it’s a structure. A considerable plot of land covered almost entirely in stone: all in very neat geometrical shapes forming platforms, balustrades and all sorts of little miniature structures. Most numerous are the stone posts— no, they’re more like monoliths. Little gray and black ziggurats rising all throughout like little an extensive miniature mountain range, one for each stone platform, odd inscribed wooden posts lined up behind them. Actually, now that I take a good look, the ziggurats also have inscriptions. What do they say? It seems to me like just a bunch of names, and… dates?
Oooh. I see. I read about this. Again, the Ancient City didn’t have one of these, though. Maybe oni just don’t die?
I pull back and sit up straight, suddenly feeling very disrespectful just for not minding myself, although that’s probably silly.
The place is deserted except for one small girl that we can see, scrubbing down a grave earnestly enough that each movement shakes her whole body, and her tail.
Wait, tail? Yeah, floppy ears atop her head and a bushy tail — it’s a youkai. Something seems odd to me about a youkai working in a temple, but really, what do I know?. As we approach, I start hearing a droning of sorts, in low voice, that only becomes clear when we step directly behind her. “–butsu-u-en-bu-po-so-en-jo-raku-ha-jo-cho-nen-kan-ze-on-bo-nen-kan-ze-on-nen-nen-ju-shin-ki...”
And so on. She mutters on with no variation in tone or timing. Kind of creepy, actually. I guess it’s a Buddhist thing.
Parsee makes a face, but Yamame stops behind her and coughs to attract the girl's attention. It takes three coughs to finally rouse her from her task and chanting.
She’s a cute little thing, if I’m at liberty to call anyone little — only slightly taller than me, showing a bright-eyed innocence that you don’t usually see in youkai, or at least I haven’t; a lightness and levity of moment that are more common to carefree children than our kind. She wears a charming, short pink dress with jade buttons, colours as bright as the full smile she flashes us. She raises a hand in greeting;
Her tails starts wagging energetically, and— “Good afternoon! Visitors, right?” Wow. Is that necessary? All three of us flinch from the volume, and she notices, because she puts a hand to her mouth, embarrassed.
“I’m sorry!” She bows low. “I forget myself sometimes. But good afternoon, yes?”
Yamame is the one to respond, more or less off-balance from the rather forceful greeting. “Y–yes, good afternoon. We’re looking for the head priest.”
“Yes, miss Byakuren! But, but first,” her eyes nervously dart to Parsee. “Good afternoon, I said.”
Oh dear. That’s not a good stare on Parsee’s eyes, I’m sure. The dog-girl shrinks under it and her tail slows, I notice. “Yeah? What’s good about it?” she snarls, as rough a voice as she can force out. Now, this is easy to forget, but Parsee is actually especially nice in her own way to me and Yamame. Strangers get a more acid treatment still, until she’s used to them — and they’re used to her. Her eyes especially. I know that first hand.
She shrinks smaller still, now actually looking like a scolded puppy, eyes upturned. Now that’s just not fair. “Th–that’s… um, greetings are… important.”
I don’t know if Parsee is particularly weak to that sort of thing or if Yamame gave her a good elbowing that I don’t notice, but in any case, she doesn’t make things hard for long, muttering “afternoon” only loudly enough to be audible.
But it seems to be plenty, because the girl brightens immediately, like the last few seconds never happened at all. She flashes a blinding smile at Parsee. “Yes, a very good afternoon!” The rhythmic patter of her tail comes back in force. “Very good.” And then she turns her attention to me, staring straight into my eyes. “Isn’t it?”
Ah. It’s my turn, is it?
[ ] Quick, hide! [ ] Make an effort. Come on, it’s two words. [ ] Improvise. ___
Felt like doing a shorter update. I may wait way less time to call today than usual, since I'm bored and at home.
Alright. Alright, it’ll never get better if I don’t try to make it better, right? Trying won’t hurt, even if I fail. It’s all in my head, if I just believe hard enough, I can easily do it.
These are all things I tell myself, but I don’t get the feeling that they help much, if at all. The lumps of ice remain: in my throat, making it hard to swallow; in my stomach, chilling my core, making me shake. It’s the same retracting of the mind if I so much as think of opening my mouth. It sucks, to sum it up.
But, you know what? I’ve done it before. I know exactly how much and in what way it sucks. I can brace for it sucking. I’m going to do it. ...Kind of. No, I will.
“G…”st no, no, none of that. Swallow it, shake it off. I set my jaw, pinch myself, bite down on my lip. “Good—” “She doesn’t speak.”
...Oh. Yamame, why? Aw, no, it’s not her fault. I was barely even whispering, it’s obvious she’d speak for me, and that people wouldn't hear what I say. ...I did say a word, and with my mind fully here this time around. I’m going to count that as a win.
Temple girl, however, doesn’t look so good. Her smile freezes in place, as does her tail. Oh no, did Yamame say something she wasn’t supposed to? Break some Buddhist custom? “Doesn’t… doesn’t speak?” Dog-girl here certainly looks shocked enough for it.
“Yes, that’s what I said,” Yamame repeats, calmly.
“What…” The girl’s eyes go wide, wider, until they feel like they’re threatening to engulf her entire face. She looks proper mortified now. I’m not sure what’s the deal here. There are mute people, right? Even humans. Could this one be even younger than me? “What do you mean, she doesn’t speak?”
Parsee pipes up, sighing. I don’t envy anyone trying to deal with her for the first time. “The hell do you think she means, idiot? Look, can’t you just be a nice mutt and take us to this Byakuren?”
She spares Parsee only a glance before shifting me the most unabashedly full of pity eyes I’ve seen my whole life — and I’ve seen a few of those, trust me. Come on, don’t look at me like that… it’s not SO bad that I can’t get around. I mean, it’s pretty bad, but don’t make me feel it more than I already do. I sink a tad and move fully behind Yamame. That look can hurt.
“I’m… I’m so sorry. Um, are you okay?” she says, and I get the feeling I’m being addressed. It comes oddly understated, compared to her previous tone. Yeah. It’s fine. Just... You know.
“I said go, woman. MOVE!” barks Parsee. I do see her get elbowed by Yamame this time, but our guide obeys either way, walking on and throwing me back one or two obviously nervous, heavy-hearted looks as she leads us. Oh well. You deal with it.
She leads us through a neat paved stone path through the rows and rows of equally neat graves, under a sturdy black torii, and another neat stone path flanked with the neatest garden a little ways to — a building? No, at least two of them. Long, long, extensive japanese-style houses, very well maintained and new-looking. I would have expected it to be silent, other than perhaps the background droning of more monks doing their chanting thing, but it’s an entirely different atmosphere. There’s a definite buzz of people, and not so few, at that — that soft, constant murmur of many different voices talking at the same time. Common when lots of oni gathered in any one place, and I heard it back when we stopped at the human village. Which I don’t like at all. To reiterate, I’m not good with crowds.
We emerge into a space surrounded by those buildings, a stone courtyard of sorts. A grand brass statue of an imposing young monk in elaborate robes, holding a… thing in one hand. Looks like a thickened kitchen whisk with prongs on the ends. The courtyard is rather busy: there are people set up just about everywhere: sitting around on the bare floor, on benches sitting on steps to the buildings, milling or marching busily about. I wouldn’t think it’s a place of worship; I spot a few people playing cards with piles of coins about and at least a few suspicious gourds here and there. I don’t know about Buddhism, but aren’t those things generally frowned upon in other religions? Another thing: they’re nearly all youkai. I’d say a sixth of them even look human to begin with, and of those, I’d say another small fraction from those actually is human. Or none. You’ve got bat, wings, bird wings, crow wings, horns — one, two, or many, one-eyed monks, three-eyed monks, giants, dwarfs, one is clearly a tsukomogami, from how he hugs a hefty, unwieldy biwa like it’s precious, hunchbacks, and I stop counting just about there. At the very least, they’re all at least vaguely human-shaped, so they should all be able to stop themselves from attacking humans. If they want to.
Our guide — Kyouko, she said while guiding us — piped up for the first time in a while. “Miss Byakuren should be more or less free right about now— Ah!” she yells, spotting the group of card-playing ‘monks’. Really yells: I think everyone’s eyes come to us in a second. “That’s too much, guys. Out here? Come on, if I catch you again I’ll tell Shou on you!” That disperses them quick, and a few others slink off along with them. That's not the only shouting she does along the way: she seems incredibly popular for someone who was just doing a menial task like cleaning graves. Lots of monks, strong looking youkai call out to her, and she calls back, always smiling. Actually, I can sort of see how she'd be popular. She continues to throw little worried looks my way every time she thinks she won't be noticed (and I notice it every time), which is sweet, but... well, I can't exactly complain about someone worrying over me.
She resumes our little trail, out of the courtyard and into — [b]wow[b], I don’t know how I missed this. Those plain japanese houses weren’t the temple at all.
THIS is a temple. It’s tall, and wide, and… I don’t know quite how to describe it. According to Yamame it’s a repurposed boat, but I have to admit I don’t see it. If it is in fact, it has seen extensive enough reconstruction that you hardly say the boat was more than a source of wood. Well painted, elaborate, fancy double roof, red pillars and all that.
But we don’t go there either. Geez, how many buildings does this place have? Instead, we head off to a comparatively plain, dark, stocky little building to the side.
No luck, as it turns out. She goes inside after saying she’d check, but comes out a moment later, dejected. “I apologize, but it seems she was busier than I thought. But, of course, we offer lodging and food and everything we can. She’ll be able to see you first thing tomorrow morning.”
Parsee mumbles something and Yamame deflates a bit, but it’s not so bad, I don’t think. Besides, we can’t complain about the hospitality and free help. It’s just a night, and a night indoors, even. Pretty good.
“Would you like to go to a room now? Or some food, or… oh!” She brightens up, jumping on the balls of her feet “I could show you around the rest of the temple!”
Well, the sun is starting to come down, and we did travel a long way here. A nice rest would be just right. But then again, exploring this temple seems like it might be pretty interesting...
[ ] Tour [ ] Room [ ]
I've had a mild headache for 3 days straight, and I've just now gone blind, which means it'll be evolving into a world-splitting migraine any moment now. I'll be unconscious if you need me.
What's with that blank option? Judging from the context, it was supposed to be food, right? Is that really an option or did you just forget to delete it? If food is a valid option, put my vote down for food. If not, then [x] Room
I nod to myself. Yeah, I don’t dislike this place. Sure, it’s never easy to be so close to so many people like this, but the overall atmosphere is peaceful enough — as it ought to be in a place of worship, I think. I won’t lie, a few of those monks did look pretty intimidating, burly giants and overmuscled sorts. I wonder if Buddhism teaches martial skills? Still, I should be fine. Plus, the only really heavily populated spot was that courtyard with the brass statue; every other place I saw was just fine. Besides, I haven’t seen everything there is to see just yet; they might have… somewhere I can take a hot bath! Or a nice garden, or, or… A library! If they have a whole library that’ll be great, I couldn’t read anything back at that mansion. Damn, I should’ve swiped at least one book while I was running away.
In any case, I do want a tour! We’ll just— “No, I think we’ll just retire for today, thank you. We’ve been a good few days on the road now,” Yamame, mild–mannered as ever, cuts off my thoughts. She stretches (showoff!) and yawns as if to emphasize the point. Parsee just hums a heavy “mm-hmm” of assent.
Of course. Of course it wouldn’t go my way. “Aww.” Kyouko, again, visibly deflates. This girl is pretty simple: all you have to do to figure her out is watch the tail. Not that that’s a bad thing: I find it pretty cute, actually. I get the feeling that if her ears weren’t floppy they’d be flat against her head about now, too. “Ooka–ay,” she drawls. “I’ll take you guys to a spare place we have for guests.”
There’s no way they’re going to let me go around alone, is there? What do do, what to do.
Kyouko leads on, not so talkative anymore. Still greets people who go by, though. We walk all the way back to a little house near the cemetery: western style, of dark wood, a brick chimney, so stocky, cozy, tiny and altogether enchanting I have some trouble believing it wasn’t plucked directly from the top of a hill in a children’s story book. Maybe it has gnomes living inside. What, they just have this place lying around? Unused?
Or, not unused. The door is opened to a veritable mess; really lived-in. Gourds, cups, half-eaten food, cards, clothes, pipes, even a mahjong set lay discarded. It’s a single room and a closet (I should think that’s what that door is), and not much furniture: a table, hearth with kitchen implements and an unmade futon. Still quite obvious that it’s an enviable place to live in. My own little den is ten times worse. Right now, even: I’m kneeling on top of a mess of our own luggage.
Kyouko squeaks in something like terror as soon as she sees the state of the place, then starts frantically bowing like a fast-forward deer chaser, sending her ears flying all over. This is the first time anyone has bowed to me, isn’t it? Feels... odd.
“I–I’m sorry! They’re not supposed to come in here, but, you know… It’s out of the way and nobody comes around, so…” She colours a bit, and another bow. “I’m very sorry! I’ll get to cleaning up ri—”
“That’s fine, I’ll do it” Yamame cuts her off, rolling up her sleeves. Parsee is already across the room, splayed out on the futon, hair undone and everything. She works fast.
“What?!” Her eyes go wide a second time and she shakes her head, again sending hair and ears flapping. There she goes again. “You can’t! You’re the guests!”
“I said it’s fine. I kind of feel like stretching some before resting, anyway,” says Yamame with a smile. Genuine-looking smile. Not that I’ve ever seen Yamame give a fake-looking smile. It’s not too hard to imagine her doing chores, either. Maybe it’s a habit?
“B–but…” Kyouko turns her eyes up at Yamame. That’s bad for the heart. I don’t think I’d be able to say no to that face, myself.
“But nothing.” Yamame is ruthless. Clearly I require more training. “Don’t you have your own duties, anyway?”
Kyouko flinches at that as if stricken, then turns her eyes down. “That’s…”
Yamame sighs, an unusual sound coming from her. And then… plop. Ah! Her hand goes square atop Kyouko’s head, who flinches again, just a bit. And ruffles, she ruffles her hair, and scratches her ears. The damn ears! Kyouko even sighs and half-closes her eyes and, and…
That’s my spot!
N...not that I’m claiming ownership or anything, I know I’m not nearly so grand that I can do that, but, you know, it’s just… I hear a snicker and find that Parsee took a second off her temporary coma to grin at me. It’s not a positive kind of grin.
“I said I’ll do it, it’s no trouble at all. Come on, you don’t have time to be wasting with me, do you?” That tone too, it’s… she talks to me with it. Uu, this is so not cool. I know it’s just me being stupid, that Kyouko has no fault and that Yamame would be just as kind to anyone else without exception, but… it just doesn’t feel good. Oh geez, I don’t wanna be seen scowling or… whatever it is I must be doing. I put both hands to my face sink in my bucket to hide my undoubtedly unsightly expression.
“Okaaay.” Kyouko bows again — only after Yamame retracts her hand. “Again, I’m sorry for the trouble.”
With a look back she leaves, leaving us a key. Yamame turns to start cleaning up the place.
Wait a minute… this is my chance, isn’t it? Parsee is already half asleep and Yamame isn’t paying attention to me at all. It’s not like I amount to much, I can go and get my walk around the temple now and they probably won’t even realize I’m gone. They’re both tired, I don’t want to bother them.
“KYAAA!” Ow, ow, okay, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. You don’t need to burst my eardrums. Her ears twitch as her eyebrows rise into a surprised expression. “Oh… huh? It’s you!” Yeah it’s me. I circle around her once out of habit and she spins with, to keep up.
“Miss, er…” …
“U-umm, anyway, is there something wrong with the room? Shall I—” No, no. I shake my head and motion towards the rest of the temple. “Ah!” she perks up. “Did you want to have look around with me?” Nod, nod.
“GREAT!” Ugh. Please watch the volume. “But the sun is almost down, so the evening ceremony is in just a few moments… Hm.” Evening ceremony? Sounds interesting. “I think we have time to go to one place beforehand, though. We can do the rest afterwards. What do you think?” I don’t see why not.
[ ] “Near the cemetery there’s a huge mausoleum! It’s a tad grim, but really rather beautiful. We can’t go into the crypt proper, though. A good friend of mine usually shows up around there. [ ] “The study hall. I’m not good with reading and stuff like that, but Mamizou hangs around there. She’s really wise, everyone in the temple consults her. “ [ ] “The dojo that Shou manages. I’d never join it myself, but I always stop by to see everyone training.” [ ] “There’s a beautiful garden that Hijiri herself maintains between the main gate and the main hall, but… there’s a troublesome character that likes to haunt it, so maybe that’s not the best idea.” [ ] “A few peddlers always set up In front of the main gate, I think we can still catch them if we hurry. Someone else who likes to scare people also sets up there, but we should be able to avoid her.”
More character choices because I can’t think up anything more interesting? You bet. Maybe jealous loli wasn’t as cute as I was anticipating, but it’s cool. We still have a lot of story to go through.
Attorney General of Cuteness2014/03/23 (Sun) 19:08No. 13377▼
[x] “The dojo that Shou manages. I’d never join it myself, but I always stop by to see everyone training
Not passing up the possibility of a sweaty tiger youkai.
[x] “A few peddlers always set up In front of the main gate, I think we can still catch them if we hurry. Someone else who likes to scare people also sets up there, but we should be able to avoid her.” Is that Nue or Kogasa? Either way is good, and merchants and market scenes are fun. Taste my spit, tide.
[x] “A few peddlers always set up In front of the main gate, I think we can still catch them if we hurry. Someone else who likes to scare people also sets up there, but we should be able to avoid her.”
I'm curious how he'll portray her. Constantly losing the pagoda and being a ditz are fanon things. It's not often you get to see a Shou that's not a buttmonkey. She and Meiling rarely get very good treatment.
>>13398 I just read that she's apparently supposed to be actually pretty bad at martial arts and all of that in canon, and that 80% of her power comes from the laser pagoda.
Bother that, I say. Writing now.
>She and Meiling rarely get very good treatment. Before I started writing this story, I was actually between it and a Meiling focused story, funnily enough. But she already had her spotlight elsewhere.
Shou? Hm… Oh, yeah, she did say something about her, didn’t she? Shouted at some loitering monks that she’d tell Shou on them. An image like a grumpy schoolteacher comes to mind. Kyouko thankfully preempts the question from my expression. “Shou is… the boss, kind of. Byakuren is the real boss, technically, but she’s a little…” she hesitates. Seems like I stumbled upon a difficult topic. “She’s too kind. She only sees the good in people, so they end up taking advantage of her. Shou and the rest of us try to fend off the crooks going after her good graces,” her smile falls a bit at this point. “But as you could see, we don’t always succeed… Lots of youkai are that kind of person, unfortunately.”
Ah. I think I see.
She perks up, gets the shine back in her eyes: not one to stay down for too long, apparently. “Shou is great. She’s kind and honest, and strong! Even if she fought Byakuren, I bet it’d be a tie, or else a really close fight.” Ah. A fan? “She can be a little scary when you first meet her, but really, she’s amazing! There’s no need to be scared.” Scary? Er…
“Oh, but remember never to try and surprise her. Once I tried to sneak up on her and ended up with a spear through my stomach.” ……… She seems to realize what she said and hurries to remedy it. “Oh, no, not on purpose. She just has a warrior’s reflexes, see. I was completely at fault. She’s really a great person.”
Kyouko guides us back to one of the japanese-style places near the courtyard, and it’s a particularly large one, although simple. Kyouko goes on and on about this Shou the whole time we’re on the way there: how she’s a great teacher, how she’ll ‘even teach humans’, not to take offense at anything she says since she’s not that great with people sometimes or how she’ll drink an oni under the table (riiight).
All told, I have quite the image of this Shou by the time we get to the sliding doors on what I assume to be the strangely silent dojo.
And, well… Let’s just say I’m not disappointed. Maybe it’s the impact of the lone girl in an empty dojo, but I can’t lie. I’m not quite sure what she’s doing, but It’s amazing all the same.
She steps, and spins, and jumps too, each willful step sending out a wave through the dojo and a forceful, commanding wham in a rhythm. She twirls around a huge all-metal slab of a spear as easily as if it was made of bamboo: it’s thick and half again as tall as its wielder, the long edge not just a simple spear point, but a cross-shaped blade that would surely take a foot or two off as easily as a scythe harvests wheat with a simple thrust at the ankles. She holds it at the very edge, thrusting and swinging at nonexistent adversaries that would be a whole room away. I would certainly not want to be at the receiving end of those: I can hardly follow the blade with my eyes, and the loud, sharp whooshes that follow each swing leave little doubt about lethality.
That’s not to say the wielder — Shou, it was — is any less impressive. I feel a little weird staring since she’s wearing so little: a top that only covers her chest, leaving all of her (rather very well toned) navel and muscular shoulders, completely exposed, glistening with sweat as they are; and some short shorts, both made of some springy, tight-fitting fabric, likely outsider stuff. She has her blonde hair pulled back in a short ponytail, and for good reason: what isn’t tied is sticking to her face in messy wet clumps. Can’t be too comfortable. It’s transfixing — and I didn’t want to use a silly word like that, but that’s what it is. I suppose this must be some sort of training, but it’d be easy to mistake it for a dance; a frantic and deadly dance. The relative lack of clothes lets me see how each muscle moves in each movement, how she easily swings around that hunk of metal that would probably be impossible for me to even lift, when the only indications she’s exerting herself are the sweat and sharp little exhalations with every swing. I live near a bunch of oni, so I can’t quite say I’ve never seen a muscular body, but never quite so… graceful, if that makes sense. The hulking horned beasts are more ‘hammer-like’. Never this lithe, streamlined, directed, like a… spear. It strikes me that the peak of physical ability probably looks something like this.
I would probably have watched her for hours and hours still, but she started winding down eventually, until she finally stopped, slamming down the pommel end on the tatami — nearly scaring me out of my wits — and bowing to empty space.
And then looks right at us. Ah, crap! Right, we were in the same room. Aaah, Kyouko is right, this is kind of scary. She’s got a stare like a wild animal, like she could kill me any moment if she wanted to. Actually, that’s probably true. W-what do I do? I move behind my cheery companion. Just a bit.
Miss Shou’s aura partially collapses when she breaks off her martial death-stare into an embarrassed smile. Still wouldn’t mess with her. She takes out a towel that was tucked into her shorts and wipes her face, though I don’t know how much good that does: she looks just as much like a mess as before. She nods, still not saying anything. Her stare shifts to me for a second, and I get the strange feeling she’s appraising, but just for that second. Besides, I suppose it’s not that unusual when you first meet someone. “Thank you,” she says, her voice controlled, which is a bit surprising. I don’t know, but I’d have expected someone with this much power in them to have more of a roar in their voice. “Your friend?”
“Yes, yes,” she moves aside, leaving me out in the open. “I’m just showing her around the temple and we decided to come here first. Is that alright?”
Shou hums in the affirmative. She takes a few steps towards us and I realize just how tall she is. Probably even taller than Yamame. “Watching pretty closely, weren’t you?”
Oh geez, she noticed. I pull back behind Kyouko again feeling my cheeks heat up, something that I’m really going to have to learn to control one of these days. Shou chuckles; it’s a warm sound. “Here, it’s okay,” she says, holding out her spear “Want to try it out?”
I don’t get the chance to answer, though.
“Shooou, we have to get to the main hall, we’re late already.”
“Actually,” a note of something like relief sneaks in there. I heard it. “Ichirin is conducting today. I’m not going. It may even have started already.”
“AH!” Kyouko’s eyes go wild. Again, ouch. “Tell me that earlier, geez! I’m late already!” She makes to leave, but turns back to me. “Are you coming along?”
I think Kyouko was expecting me to go along with her — her expression is as easily readable as ever when I move near Shou. Passes quickly enough, however: after promising to come back more times than is necessary, she finally leaves with a final regretful look behind. I like her. Maybe I should’ve gone with, but it sounds like everyone in the temple would have been there, in which case I’d rather stay far away.
Once Kyouko’s gone, it’s like the dojo suddenly gets immersed in quiet. I didn’t realize she generated quite so much ambient noise, but it’s kind of surreal. I suppose everyone in the temple being gathered away from here helps as well.
I take a good look around the dojo, since I had other things to focus on before. It seems even wider in the inside than outside. Incredibly spacious, as it has to be if they’re regularly swinging around spears of that length. Floor seems soft, I can see it give under Shou’s feet, just a pinch. The sun is fully over the horizon now, paper lanterns on the walls providing dim lighting. I never saw them come on; magic seems to be a popular solution to lighting problems all throughout Gensokyo.
“Nice place, isn’t it?” Wow, she really does seems like a completely different person when she’s not smiling. It’s as Kyouko said: scary. I–I know she’s harmless, but… how do I put it? Imagine being in a room with a bomb. You know the fuse isn’t lit, you know nobody is around to light it, it’s perfectly safe. But you’re still in a room with a bomb. It’s especially clear after her little display, and especially especially clear when she’s this, um, underdressed, showing how much death she could deal with just a sharpened piece of iron. Really, this is less than Yamame wears to bed. I’m having trouble figuring out where to look without feeling awkward. At least she’s not quite as… endowed. That would be an achievement with this little body fat in you.
“Well?” I wasn’t looking! I, I wasn’t looking anywhere weird. She holds out the spear in front of her, frowning. I flinch a bit. “Aren’t you going to try it out?”
Oh, that. Sure, then. Damn, this thing really looks far too heavy for me. It’s got to be at least as thick around as my fist. I look up for a last confirmation and Shou nods. People can be very protective of their weapons, I’ve learned. I grab hold of it around the middle. It’s kinda cold, and… Ah wait, she’s letting go? Right now? Wait, I’m not ready— Oof, okay, okay, I’m doing it. It really is incredibly heavy. With some effort, I can at least keep it upright when it’s got most of its weight on the floor like this, but I certainly wouldn’t want to try to lift it. Not with brute strength, anyway, although I could probably float it along with me if I wanted, like with my bucket.
...Shou? She’s looking at me weird again, like… actually, I can’t think of a comparison. Just weird. I didn’t do anything wrong, did I? I don’t think I did. She ‘hmmm’s at my efforts, which doesn’t seem like a good sign. Thankfully, she’s back to normal before long — although she still doesn’t smile. Actually, she hasn’t smiled since Kyouko left.
“Not a fighting kind, are you?” I shake my head. More of a running kind. She snatches the spear away from me and spins it over her head with one hand. Showoff. I totally could do something like that if, er… if… I snake my hands under my robe and over my stomach. Damn. Flat, soft, I probably couldn’t lift anything heavier than myself if I tried. Not that I REALLY care, but, you know.
thump goes the spear again, on the floor. “Since you don’t look like you’d get much out of learning how to fight,” she says, with no hesitation. You don’t have to spell it out… She sits cross-legged, sets the spear down near her and pats the floor. Ah, right. I land in front of her and cross my legs as well, inside the bucket. “So, why don’t we try something else? Just until Kyouko comes back.”
“It’s not my specialty,” she says, scratching her nose, looking cutely nervous in a momentary slip of expression. It’s gone before long. “But I should be able to teach you at least some. Have you meditated before?” Meditated? Right, buddhism did have a meditation thing, didn’t it? I think I’ve read about that somewhere. Open your mind and stuff. Or was it empty your mind? Either way, I shake my head, I’ve never tried it.
“It’s fairly complex, but at a basic level,” she shifts herself into a comfortable position, so I follow along. “To meditate is simply to concentrate. I’ve heard some say that you have to ‘clear your mind’, but that’s wrong. You only clear your mind of unneeded thoughts.” It’s just concentrating? That’s kind of weird, but I can do that much. My eyes close more or less naturally. Shou’s voice… concentrate on it. No unneeded thoughts…
“Meditation brings perspicacity, tranquility, stillness of the mind. All you have to do is focus your thinking. Refuse to be distracted.”
Focus my thinking, focus my thinking. I’m not thinking of anything in particular, but I focus — and it comes naturally, somehow. It’s weird. It’s silent and my eyes are closed, but even so I can clearly feel my surroundings dim around me. My mind, or thoughts, or — something I can’t identify. It forms as a point of light, or a point of something in place of the dimming reality. Focused. It’s interesting enough to stare at the point — and focus more on it. Focus on it more. Like running your finger along a blade.
A long time passes this way. Or so I think.
“In the dojo, our reflections are often focused on the body.” Shou takes a deep breath. Her voice echoes and dims for me, although I know it doesn’t actually. “But you may take it any way you like.”
It’s odd. Did Shou do something to me? It’s odd how sharp my thoughts seem to be running right now. I can… direct them, in a way.
[ ] The Mind [ ] The Heart [ ] The Body [ ] The Other
That heart I mean is the red pointy one, by the way. If you follow my meaning. I advise you not to look too deep into this choice. I was just a little lost on the scene and decided to just go with ‘whatever, let’s just get on with it’ instead of spending another god knows how many days redoing and rethinking it. Once you start delaying updates, you don’t stop.
Sorry for the delay, by the way. For the boring picture too, I couldn't find a good picture of a related meditating touhou.
I know, we want to look into our mind. But that's pushing things a bit too far, too fast. Instead, lets follow Shous advice. Look into our Body. Feel it, know it. Maybe we'll finally be able to Feel that seal on our back, and what its doing to us.
>I think Kyouko was expecting me to go along with her — her expression is as easily readable as ever when I move near Shou. Passes quickly enough, however: after promising to come back more times than is necessary, she finally leaves with a final regretful look behind.
I don’t usually think about myself — my own thoughts, what goes on in my own head. Not in any sort of depth. Haven’t so far, at least. Well, I have, but it generally isn’t on purpose, and more importantly… doesn’t feel nice. If I think too hard about myself, it doesn’t take long to stumble upon something unpleasant, something that makes me want to clench my teeth and squeeze my eyes shut. Then I stop thinking. There hasn't been any huge reason to do so, anyhow.
And so I've never tried sitting and thinking about it, truly thinking about it. Like I am now. Being focused doesn’t make it any more pleasant; even thinking about thinking about it (if that makes sense) is already giving me goosebumps. I have to do it, though. Don’t I? It’s clear that I’m changing, even if it’s not that much. But it’s progress. I no longer lose my wits completely at the sight of open space, even if it still does drive me a little deeper into my bucket. I can more or less control the immediate urge to recoil if someone touches me, even if I can’t quite bring myself to enjoy it yet. I’ve even said some words, almost. I haven’t had a full-blow panic attack in… weeks? It sure feels like a lot of time. But that’s just the thing. Words like almost and more or less: I’m not rid of it completely, and I don’t know that I ever can be. But it'd be really great, wouldn't it? I could hug Parsee, and Yamame, and even Koishi. I'd probably be a little too sticky, like Koishi, at least at the beginning. I've known them so long, you know, and I've never had a chance to fully express how much I like them. I'd like to have a chat with them. To tell them about the things I like and laugh together. To stretch my legs and walk on fresh grass under the sun without having to lug this awful heavy wooden thing around. Sleep soundly for many nights in a row, and, and... if I may be allowed to dream that much: get myself a little place for myself, grow a little garden. And all that. It'd be nice if I could. Why can't I?
I might have some sort of talent for this meditation thing, because self-reflection becomes surprisingly easily. The answer comes to be immediately and without warning. There’s no more perfect word for it: the solution blindsides me completely. And it’s so obvious. For years I’ve avoided thinking about it, about any of this, and I haven’t progressed much, if at all. I remained the same, shrinking from my own shadow. But these last few days, I’ve been thrust in unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations; thought, sometimes inadvertently, about myself and what happens with me. And I’ve improved for it.
It just becomes the logical conclusion, doesn’t it?
It’s obvious, really, but it’s eluded me for so long. Or, come to think of it, it’s more like I’ve eluded it for so long. If I want to get better, I have to face my problems. I’ll have to think about what I don’t want to think, do what I don’t want to do.
Most terrifyingly, I’ll have to remember what caused it all and face it head-on — something must have caused it. And immediately, the reason it has escaped me for so long becomes clear.
I don’t want to.
I don’t want to. I don’t want to dive down into my own head, I don’t want to even think about it. I’ll have to look at what’s in there, and that’s awful. I’ve been in there before. It’s dark and the walls sting with metallic cold. It hurts all over, and I’m sure if I bothered to look I’d be coloured mostly sickly yellow and blue with bruises, and it hurts and hurts and hurts more they pull my hair and i’m scratched and torn and blood floods my mouth and spills and dyes my body and please
I–I mean… I… i-it’s o-over quick...
please, get it together. Get it together.
...The scenario in my head breaks without much effort, thankfully. I open my eyes to find myself staring into the old familiar curved wall of wood. I take my now teeth-marked and bloody finger from my mouth. Damn it. Things like this happen sometimes.
Good thing this bucket is large enough that my head doesn’t peek out when I sit, so Shou didn’t see my face or anything. I’d hate to worry a complete stranger like that over nothing.
I’d like to be done thinking now. This clarity of thinking also extends to stuff I’d much rather not think clearly about. Not yet, anyhow. I’ll need some… support for that.
Phew, This kind of thing really takes it out of you. For now, I think I ought to go back and get some rest. Or, well, I was going to. The frenzied clatter of a sliding door slamming open echoes through the empty room, followed by a very obviously relieved sigh. An angry — kind of angry, worried-angry — Parsee stands in the doorway, silhouetted by the twinkling night sky.
“Just what in the world were you thinking?” It’s the same rough voice she uses with other people, but it hurts especially right now, because I know it’s fully turned to me and that I’m enough of an idiot to deserve it. I sit staring at my knees after an awkward exchange with Shou and a lengthy and uncomfortable walk behind a silent, fuming Parsee. I know, I know it was stupid, but… well, but nothing. It was stupid, and that’s it. I lower my head further.Parsee and Yamame stand before me in the guest house like it’s some sort of intervention.
“Did you not see the kind of people hanging around here?” It’s Parsee doing the talking; Yamame hasn’t said much of anything since we came back, which doesn’t make me feel very good either. “You could be stashed in someone’s basement, having who-knows-what done to you right now, do you understand?” she snaps.
I–I’m sorry already, so… stop looking at me like that.
—But no go. After Parsee is done scolding me, she goes straight to sleep in one of the three futon laid out, pulling Yamame along with her and snuffing out all our lighting, leaving no room for discussing. Yamame doesn’t say a word to the end, but! She did smile at me, kind of. So she’s not that angry, probably. Ah, it really leaves a bad taste in your mouth to go to sleep like this, but what can I do? There’s a lot to do tomorrow. We’re going to talk to this new priest person, right? Maybe he’ll know what this thing on my back is and not try to kidnap me, and maybe I’ll find out what it is that Parsee wants, finally. I just hope she’s okay with me again when we wake up.
I make myself as comfortable as I can in this crappy bucket.
… Roll, rolly rolly roll. Roll forwards, roll backwards — or is it left and right? The hard wood presses against my bones; ankles, elbows, ribs, hips, sharp and mildly painful, and the clatter of wood on wood echoes through the room.
I can’t sleep. Had some less than pleasant dreams, which I shouldn’t really complain about. Nights like this when you can’t close your eyes are conducive to thinking; usually not very useful thinking, I’ll grant you that, but thinking nonetheless. Things like: I wonder what those things making the high-pitched noises every night look like? What do all the youkai in this monastery feed on? I wonder what this ‘Myouren’ did, to have a whole temple dedicated to him? What kind of youkai was Shou? Why does oil burn? And so on and so forth.
Either way, I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep, I can’t sleep. Each time I say ‘I can’t sleep’ in my head, I become less able to sleep, if that’s a valid sentence. Get more woken up? I better stop rolling, though, It’s way too loud. I don’t want to wake anyone up.
This is useless. I’m just wasting time here. I get up (float up), stretching my arms out in front to make sure not to bump into anything. I hold my breath and stop to listen, but there’s apparently only one other person in the room, sounding out the peaceful sighs of deep sleep. I guess either Yamame or Parsee left to do… something. I keep my covers in the bucket as I leave, though, since it’s actually rather chilly. I let only my head pop out of the mass of fluffy woolen bed-things, as if I was inside a floating feather pillow. Hehe. Really comfy, actually. They have good quality stuff in this temple, strangely. Aren’t these people supposed to be frugal?
I find the door after only a couple of seconds of floundering around, open it and…sigh. It’s still amazing. The air feels and smells nice and fresh and the sky fits it, cloudless, bright and star-studded. I might even prefer sleeping under this rather than a old wooden roof. Oh, but I guess there can be rain, can’t there? I don’t think I’ve seen that yet.
I stretch a tad. I guess a little walk will do me good. I won’t wander far, really, it won’t be dangerous! Just going around the house once or twice should be fine.
Or, I was going to.
“Oi.” Ack. People love to startle me, don’t they? Who’s— A familiar flash of green makes it clear: It’s Parsee, curled up on a corner of the porch, resting against the wall. Actually, beside the porch, on the bare ground, apparently trying to make herself invisible. Her frown from when she was scolding me comes to mind and I reflexively look away. Or, wait, is that disrespectful? I ought to be bowing instead, right?
“Calm down, will you?” she pats the grass near her. “Sit.” Ah, she’s not angry anymore. I just thought so because that’s how she looks, even not trying for it. Her tone, though, sounded rather tired. Lacked the usual sharp edge to it, which is good, I think. No reason to refuse, I suppose. I set down, just shy of touching her shoulder.
I relax for a while, just watching the little puffs of smoke that my breathing makes. Parsee seems to be doing much of the same; she’s not usually talkative from the beginning, but she seems kind o contemplative, tonight. Weird atmosphere. Different from normal, but not unpleasant.
“Cold, isn’t it? Here, I got this.” She pushes a thing… a flask? To me. Yeah, it’s a small metal flask. The hell is this? Also, ‘got’ it? She catches my look. “Someone was looking to use this place for… something other than sleeping, so I had to chase them off. Took the opportunity to charge a toll,” she says unconcernedly. A toll, is it? Isn’t that extortion?
“What? I really did. Haven’t been a watchwoman whole decades for nothing.” No, that’s not the point. Well, nevermind, it’s not like I can go around judging people for that sort of thing. I’ll just take it. Ooh, it’s hot. Perfect for the cold night. Is this tea or something? I uncork the cap to the smoking liquid, take a small sip— —And immediately regret it. What in all that is holy is this? It burns! I manage to not spit any of it out, barely, but my eyes mist up, my jaws clench up and I feel it scald my throat all the way down. Not literally scald, but damn. As soon as it’s down, it brings with it a fit of frenzied coughing.
Parsee laughs along, that little… geez. Harder when I frown at her, too. That’s not funny! There’s a limit to pranks! I try to hand her stupid drink back, but she pushes it back to me. “Try it again,” she says when she’s done laughing (which takes a while). “It’s good if you’re not taken by surprise. Come on, give it another go.”
Fiiine. I stare at the silvery flask for a while, as if that would make it easier to drink. I brace, and… Ugh, it’s still not good, but at least it doesn’t feel like it’s burning me anymore. It’s hot and bitter and… spicy? Whatever it is, it’s got some incredibly strong alcohol that practically lights you up inside as it goes down. Eugh, that wasn’t tasty at all. I make a face at Parsee and pass her the flask.
“Terrible, isn’t it?” she asks, with another little snicker. If you know it’s bad, don’t give it to me.
“But you feel warmer now, don’t you?” Oh. Now that she mentions it… “Pretty good in a night like this, if you ask me.”
Can’t deny that. I hum in agreement.
Hm, Parsee looks kind of cold, too. I grab one corner of the blanket I took from inside and sort of awkwardly partly drape it around her. Damn, now that I started doing this I feel terribly silly, but she smiles at me, so it’s fine. A little fixing up and we’re nice and cozy. Parsee takes another swig of the weird drink and offers it to me again. ...Fine. Hey, why not? Goes along well with watching the brilliant sky. That is to say, doing nothing at all. We spent a pleasant, silent few minutes before she pipes up again, oddly sheepish.
“Sorry.” Huh? “I’m… I wasn’t that mad at you.” Sure did scold me enough, for someone that wasn’t mad, though.
“It’s just…” she trails off, looking past me. “You’re, you know…” I know? I don’t think I do. “I just— that is, I, err…” She fidgets around. “I… d–don’t… you know. Hate you.”
I tilt my head at her. “I don’t, I mean. S–so, if you just disappear like that, it’s… um, not good for me. It’s worrying.”
Ah. I think I see. Parsee is kind of cute like this.
“Anyway,” she breaks out, very obviously changing the subject. I smile. Let’s let it pass. “How do you like it up here?”
How do I like it…? I smile my brightest. It’s great. It’s bright, has birds, stars, people and all sorts of fun stuff. I don’t like all of it, it’s true, but it’s more than a welcome change of pace. I wouldn’t mind living up here, I don’t think. I’d just have to find a den for myself.
Parsee nods, seeing my reaction. “I like it up here too.” She shuffles a bit closer, leaning against the thin barrier between us. “I used to live aboveground, a long time ago.”
Yeah. I sort of knew.
She takes another sip. Er, swig. I mean, turns the bottle. I was taking little baby sips since it was so strong, but Parsee clearly has no such reservations. “I was kicked out.”
That doesn’t surprise me, but I better not say anything. Not that I could if I wanted to.
There's another several minute pause where we just breath and she drinks what's left and tosses the flask before laughing bitterly. “You know what for? For being a dick.” Maybe being tipsy helped, but I couldn’t help laughing at that. It really is kind of funny when she says it suddenly like that. Of course, I put my hand to my mouth and try to hold it back, but Parsee already heard me. “It’s fine, I know the idea is funny.” No, it’s not fine. I bow my head in something like an apology. Helps hide the smile, too. “It’s just not so funny is when it’s happening to you,” Parsee turns her head away from me.
… I think I did something bad.
“And you always make everyone hate you and you can’t stop—”
Her voice cracks.
For a second, it feels like the night sounds double in loudness.
“But it’s fine.” Recovers remarkably quickly, too. Or covers it up well, most likely. “I’m going to take measures. Already am.”
...What do I do in this sort of situation? “Come on, let’s get some sleep.” Ah, she’s going to get up. Can I just let her leave on this sort of note?
[ ] ...Yeah, sleep. [ ] Stop her.
More drinking? SUUURE, where else would a touhou bare her feelings? Alcohol is the lifeblood of Gensokyo. Man, I suck at drama-y things, but you gotta get started somewhere, I suppose.
This one is, believe it or not, NOT a throwaway choice as it may seem! Choose wisely.
If I don't update in the next 36 hours feel free to call me a faggot. Sorry guys, busy weekend, upgrading computer and having some trouble writing. I can't even promise to make it up for you guys since this scene feels like it's coming along kinda crappy. Eugh.
I grip the side of her skirt for dear life before she gets up. Nuh uh, I’m not letting her just walk away after saying something that stupid. I think I’ll start regulating Parsee’s alcohol intake if she’s going to get like this every time she drinks. Yeah, ‘made everyone hate me’, right. What am I, chopped liver? She responds to my indignant expression only by looking vaguely confused. I’m going to have to make myself clearer, aren’t I?
Due to what may as well be called the usual suspect at this point, I’m not feeling in top form mentally right now. In fact, I have my doubts I’d be able to fly straight, but I’m sure I can still think. Or at least I hope so. So, before Parsee decides to shake me off and go to sleep, how do I get it across to Parsee that I like her? Being harsh and acid as she is and all. I guess people use… er, what’s it called, skinship for this kind of thing? Holding hands, and hugging, and, and…
That’s a pretty high difficulty level. Technically I could just tell her, I suppose, but… Uu, what do I do? One of her eyebrows rises, and I think my time is running out. Come on, think.
—Hell. Let’s just go for it.
I jump on to her lap, wrapping my legs around her best I can and burying my face into her stomach. It’s not so easy, actually. Sudden movements and not being sober don’t go too well together, and I send my safe place, my lifeline rolling after I accidentally kick it. But, I can do it. There’s the initial impulse to get away, and quick, but I repeat to myself: It’s okay. She’s my friend. Parsee is a good person. I like her. She won’t do anything.
And she doesn’t. Well, she does hug me, and the impulse passes, which is the incredible part. I see her, I feel the movement of her breath and the rubbery feel of her undershirt, the weight of her arms on my back. I hear her inhale and exhale, right next to me. We’re so close. I’m so, so close to— to someone, to a real person, and I don’t feel any fear. Just a tiny bit that’s easily suppressed because… because it’s Parsee. I even start to feel safe, almost as if I were back in my cozy den. The covers help, too. It’s not like it’s the first time, true, but Koishi’s mind-screwery doesn’t count. That’s cheating. There may have been other times when I was alright with *people* in my personal space, but I can’t quite recall clearly.
A–anyway! I’m supposed to be cheering Parsee up right now, not just sitting here getting hugged. Although, maybe this accomplishes that? It cheers me up, at least.
Parsee’s hand lands on my head. Ehehe. Nuzzle, nuzzle. See? You don’t have to do anything, I like you plenty as you are, Yamame does too. I’m sure there are other people out there that can like this Parsee. If I really think about it, It must be pretty painful to be mean to people when you don’t want to, but if she was someone else, she wouldn’t be our Parsee, and I wouldn’t want a different one in any circumstance.
I guess it’s a complicated issue. Head scratching is nice and all, but it’s weighing down my eyelids already, and I don’t want to sleep this soon so I crawl upwards so I can put my arms around her neck. You know, a proper hug. She kind of twitches when I do, but I don’t move away. She sighs (On my EAR, for a change. What does everyone find so fun about making me go all trembly?) and squeezes me a bit, which I take for a good sign.
“You’re weird, you know that?”
I am? I tilt my head, although she can probably only feel it rather than see. I don’t feel very weird.
“Nobody else would do something like this with me.”
Wrong, stupid. I can’t prove it’s wrong, but it is.
We spend a little while just sitting, embraced. I imagine this would be horribly embarrassing if my head were clear, but thankfully it isn’t, so all I get is a pleasant buff and a very pleasant seat. I don’t manage to say it. You know, something like “I like you, Parsee. Don’t try to change,” but she seems happier than before, so I’ll just take it as a win.
Ugh, maybe not so good. My eyes hurt and I have a headache. Why is it this bright at this ungodly hour? Oh, it’s the sun. We’re waking up with the sun now. Wait, where did I even sleep last night? I remember going outside for a walk and— oh. Right, Parsee. Oh, right, Parsee. She was kind enough to put me back here. Okay, let’s try to not make falling asleep on people a habit. It felt nice and all, but let’s just not. It can’t be pleasant having someone sleep on you.
Anyhow, up, up. We have to talk to this priest guy, or lady, or whoever. Everyone else is already up and about, cleaning up before we leave. Parsee looks fittingly cheery, that is to say, the habitual furrows on her eyebrows aren’t as deep as usual. I smile to myself. Success.
I only have for breakfast I can find in the cupboard, which is actually very well stocked. Some ham-looking salted meat, cheese, bread that isn’t hard enough to break teeth for once and even milk. Also rice and eggs and other stuff, but I think I’ll go western. It’s more filling. I don’t get much time to pick and choose, however, since Parsee and Yamame are apparently all ready to leave, so I just stuff my cheeks with whatever fits and go.
…Wait just a moment. Am I forgetting something?
Hm. That’s weird.
[ ] I am. What am I forgetting? [ ] If I don’t remember it, it probably isn’t anything important.
Writefag whining for no particular reason, do not unspoiler if you don't wanna hear it. This update was fucking LAATE, and short, and had a shitty choice, and bad, and I probably spent a good 20 hours sitting catatonic in front of a screen to write it out. Fuck me.
Gentlemen, this is pretty important, so I guess I should clarify. >>13202
>>>It's odd that Kisume's type is a mystery, considering how we already know what she is. Makes me suspect that another deviation from canon is coming. >Yes, that's exactly the case. You can ignore any canon material on Kisume other than her appearance as far as this story goes. I'm not sure I should even be saying this, but it's pretty basic information, and I thought I'd already clarified it at some point.
Also I think I stated earlier that she just found the bucket at some point in her life underground, and didn't have it before that. It has no special significance beyond being a place to hide.
I can't help but get the feeling that if we choose to forget, it'll bite us in the behind at the worst possible moment. Kisume might end up panicking the moment she realises her bucket is gone, which could happen at a very bad time. It's probably only because of Koishi messing around with her subconcious that she's doing as well as she is right now.